Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Tropic Thunder – Review

It’s been a while since I’ve seen a comedy that actually made me split my sides, but Tropic Thunder rose to the challenge in hilarious fashion. It’ll likely go down as the year’s funniest movie.

Like Ben Stiller’s latest directorial entry, Zoolander, Tropic Thunder centres around over-the-top characters thrown into life-or-death situations. Instead of parodying the fashion industry, this time it’s the movie business taking his jabs. Stiller plays Tugg Speedman, an actor so desperate for an Oscar nomination he takes on the baity role of a mentally disabled soldier in a Vietnam war epic. Among those joining him are Jeff Portnoy (Jack Black) and Australian method actor Kirk Lazarus (Robert Downey Jr.), who has his skin pigment changed so he can play a black man. However, not everything goes according to the shooting script, and a series of bizarre circumstances land the actors in a real war zone.

While Tropic Thunder is certainly the best comedy Stiller has ever turned out as a director, it is not without its faults. Its attempts to offend seem forced at times, and several gags throughout the picture simply don’t work. But the same can be said for every comedy that tries to evoke non-stop laughter for the entire duration of the film. What makes Tropic Thunder so enjoyable is the hilarity of the gags that do work.

Not to mention standout performances by Tom Cruise as a crass studio head, and of course, Robert Downey Jr.’s show-stealing turn as an Ausie in black face, constantly slipping between accents and personas. His performance is one of pure comedic excellence.

Some have made a case for Downey Jr. to get a supporting actor nod for his outrageous (and yet surprisingly nuanced) performance, but I’m skeptical that the Academy will give Tropic Thunder the time of day. I actually think it’s better that way, as this film makes a point of mocking the industry and the pointlessness of glamourous awards. I have no regrets in saying “No Oscar for you!” to Tropic Thunder. The irony of nominating this film would almost be too much to bare (but it sure would be interesting…).
**1/2 out of ****

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