Posted: 08/14/2008


Tropic Thunder


by Rick Villalobos

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The prophets have spoken—Ben Stiller will make an action comedy worthy of laughter. Although the film Zoolander was thrown into the abyss of slapstick limbo, it showed some promise. Tropic Thunder is a film directed and written by Ben Stiller. Do not fret—it does not feature the hated and revered supermodel from the past. By now, Mr. Derek Zoolander is probably a wrinkly, bulimic, heroine junkie doing catalogue spreads.

Tropic Thunder is a film about a group of actors starring in a war film that goes completely wrong. Tugg Speedman (Ben Stiller) is a washed-up action star trying to survive in the middle of a real war zone. Co-starring in the film is Kirk Lazarus (Robert Downey Jr.), an Australian award-winning actor who undergoes a medical procedure that dyes his skin black, and Jeff Portnoy (Jack Black), a vulgar entertainer popular for his flatulence and crude behavior. Stuck in “1959 Vietnam”—Speedman and his fellow actors are left alone to defend themselves against an army of drug-pushing villains while finding a way back home.

Tropic Thunder is a ridiculous mess, falling short of being unfunny. It has its moments, but then, so do all mediocre comedies. The plot is simple—it is creative and fun. Even though this film has many surprises, like cast member Tom Cruise playing Les Grossman, a potty-mouthed tycoon with a bad comb-over), it is not enough to save this film. Every war has a hero and if every hero is played by actors like Robert Downey, Jr., then the world of cinema would be a lot safer and a lot funnier. He plays a character that is witty and unforgettable—something for the history books.

A white guy playing a black man in a film will create controversy. This film is not for the politically correct crowd. It may be offensive for some. Comedy may cross the line at times, but it has a way of confronting topics that need a delicate touch. Tropic Thunder will not win an Academy Award for Best Picture. It is not the greatest comedy or the worst. It is a silly film with silly characters designed to make a profit and a giggle. Give this film a chance—it has a funny bone—at least it is better than Zoolander.

Inside tip: Do not miss the first ten minutes of the film.

Rick Villalobos is a writer and a film critic in Chicago.

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