Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Tropic Thunder (2008)

Guess what? Black-face is O.K. again!

The star-studded comedy film is about as old as film itself. It always seems like a good idea. Let's take five of the funniest, or most popular, comedic film stars and drop them in a movie together. That should work just fine. The problem is that it usually doesn't. Tropic Thunder is a sometimes funny, generally silly, comedy that's only real remarkable trait is the controversy surrounding Robert Downey Jr's make-up.

Ironically, Tropic Thunder is an all-star film about an all-star film and it's no surprise that both films are relative failures. The story follows a group of the biggest stars in Hollywood and their efforts to make a Vietnam war movie. There are dozens of conflicting egos and some rampant drug issues. Things go south when the cast is dropped off in the middle of the jungle, their only guidance blown up by a land mine, and one of the cast members falls into the hands of a drug gang. The cast includes Robert Downey Jr, Ben Stiller, Jack Black, Tom Cruise and Matthew McConaughey and a boat load of other recognizable faces. Written and directed by Stiller the film was relatively successful critically and financially. It even earned Robert Downey Jr. an Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actor, more on that later, but it seems to be falling off the face of the earth each successive year.

It's no surprise that the film has disappeared from a lot of people's memories. While funny at times, Tropic Thunder is the definition of "flavor of the month" comedy. The jokes have no real longevity and, once the controversy and subsequent praise for Robert Downey Jr. being in what amounts to black face died down, the movie really didn't leave anything lasting. Even it's attempts at satire seem misguided and unprofound. Yes, it makes some funny observations about Hollywood and about the actor mentality, but none of it is all that interesting. That leaves us with the juvenile humor that permeates the rest of the movie. There are some funny sequences of Tom Cruise dancing awkwardly, some jokes about gay pop stars, a few TeVo jokes and a lot of Jack Black being fat, ugly and shirtless. None of these things are really worth the extra thought, making the movie a great tune-out movie, but movies that encourage you to tune-out and enjoy while you watch them rarely stick around.

If I've been harsh on Tropic Thunder, that was not my intention. The movie certainly has it's funny moments and it is very easy to enjoy, but, even for movies of this sort, it was underwhelming. If you are in the mood for something to turn on and just idly enjoy a couple of hours, Tropic Thunder will do the trick. I would just suggest you pick something else.


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