Tropic Thunder (2008)

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Movie Review written by: Born Movie Reviews
RT Critics Rating: 8.3/10

Born Movie Reviews' Rating: 7/10

TROPIC THUNDER (2008) - Ben Stiller

Full Metal JacketApocalypse NowPlatoonThe Deer Hunter. All of these films centered on the psychological horror of the Vietnam War. Guns fire. Trees burn. Lives lost. Picture that in your head. Picture men who commit suicide over witnessing their friends die. Men with their arms and legs amputated and men who died decapitated. Now picture that except with the men making modern-day weed jokes with vulgarity and radically foul content. The product is Ben Stiller's 2008 Vietnam parody Tropic Thunder, expressively presenting its tagline: "Get some."

Tropic Thunder revolves around a group of declining actors (Ben Stiller, Jack Black, Robert Downey, Jr.) who are making their fictional Vietnam War film. When their frustrated director decides to drop them into the middle of the jungle, the group is forced to rely on their "acting skills" to survive the real danger.

Ben Stiller is Tugg Speedman, a fading action hero from the fictional Scorcher series, also known for playing the role of Simple Jack in the fictional film Simple Jack, the "worst film ever made." Robert Downey, Jr. plays five-time Academy-Award-winning Australian actor Kirk Lazarus who undergoes a skin change to play an African American for the film Tropic Thunder. Jack Black plays drug-addicted comedian Jeff Portnoy, a parody actor on the Nutty Professor franchise. Assisting the "platoon cast" is rapper Alpa Chino (Brandon T. Jackson) and newcomer supporting actor Kevin Sandusky (Jay Baruchel). Pushing them and their crew forward to finish the film is foul-mouthed studio executive Les Grossman, hilariously portrayed by an overweighted Tom Cruise.

The characters in this film stand as a strength and weakness. Though the group alone parodies the cliche platoon in every war movie with vulgarity, it comes in as too vulgar. It is inevitable that Tropic Thunder will receive offended audience members. In fact, the film was attacked by Vietnam war veterans, calling the content profane due to no experience nor respect to the literal subject. Although I agree that the film is undoubtedly distasteful about Vietnam, it comes in conceptually as a silly movie where the filmmakers are just "having a bit of fun." Tropic Thunder never wanted to be serious.

In addition to satirizing the Vietnam genre, Tropic Thunder hilariously flips the bird to the movie industry. With an extensive marketing promotion, the film was most known for its opening scene, a series of faux trailers. Tropic Thunder advertised with fake websites for the three main characters and their fictional films. Furthermore, it aired a fictional TV special and sold energy drinks shown as fictional in the real movie. Throughout, Tropic Thunder explores the cliches of every war film, exaggerating them to fit the humor style of Stiller, Black, and surprisingly Downey, Jr. This is where Tropic Thunder trails away from other lame comedies. Underneath the ridicule of the characters and their vulgar jokes, the film consistently bears a sense of wit and originality. To an average audience, the film stays humorously appealing, but to a filmmaker, Tropic Thunder is a clever self-aware film that deserves more respect than it appears to.

In conclusion, Tropic Thunder is comically entertaining. The humor is radically crude, but Ben Stiller, Robert Downey, Jr., and Jack Black all pull off hilarious performances in this mindless yet culturally literate comedy. It delivers with enough wit and creativity to the formulaic war film genre. Though its content is excessively profane, it stands from beginning to end as a silly parody on the Vietnam war movies as well as the movie industry. It stands as one of the most daring and controversial films of 2008. And finally, it stands as a surprisingly well-structured narrative with a great cast, a movie that truly deserves to "get some."


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