Sunday, March 1, 2009

Tropic Thunder Review

I just watched Tropic Thunder, and holy kamoley I kind of liked it. Normally I'm either bored to death with comedy, because you can see what's coming a mile away, or I'm offended. Don't get me wrong, I believe in freedom of speech and all, but I just usually don't find outre' things inherently funny. The only reason I even watched it is because a friend of mine had a walk-on in it.

But you know, it was an enjoyable movie. The production of a major motion picture is going horribly wrong, so the actors are dropped off in the middle of the jungle for a bit of cinema verite'. The thing is, the story makes sense, in that what happens flows rather naturally. You don't see the writers desperately setting their chess pieces in place for the big comedic payoffs. I didn't see everything coming a million miles away.

The elephant in the room: the kerfluffle about "Simple Jack", the movie in which Ben Stiller's actor character goes "full retard." There was some outcry about the treatment of mental illness/disability in a comedy. But to me that was the point! The whole point was to show how ugly it is to use it as Oscar bait or as an attempt to make an actor's career. To hold something up to a mirror, you have to bring it out into the light.

Robert Downey Jr. got a lot of attention for his role as an Oscar winning Aussie playing a black American, and deservedly so, I think. Plus you get the bonus of Nick Nolte playing crazily intense or intensely crazy (you never know with Nolte). But I was pleasantly surprised to see Jay Baruchel (Almost Famous, Million Dollar Baby) as Kevin Sandusky, playing "Brooklyn" McClusky. That guy is so himself on screen, he can't go wrong. 6 something tall and barely 100 something pounds, he plays the role that Jeremy Davies would have played in the real movie. He and the writers did such a great job with Kevin, making him the eager young actor (who actually read the script, the book the script was based on, and went to boot camp) but with a healthy dose of common sense. He gives a great pep talk to Ben Stiller about how the men need him, the typical eager youngster speech, but it's given another level when the speech doesn't work. He just collars Ben and drags him out the door.

That's the key, here I think. Most everything works on more than one level, like Robert Downey Jr's response to the claim that Alpa Chino is "10 deep in women." He says, "No, I said someone special. That's difrunt." Those blink or you'll miss it details are what make this Ben Stiller comedy worth watching.
As opposed to the other ones...


Nicole said...

I've heard it's pretty good. It's on our Netflix.

Karol said...

Ned and I liked it too. Gonna have to watch it again to pick up some of the things I could not quite hear. Did you hear the part where Robert said to the kid when they were walking through the jungle..."have you been talking to me all this time?" for some reason that hit my funny bone.

jared said...

robert downey jr was brilliant in this movie. i especially enjoyed his meltdown with the peeling away of identities. i really sensed a certain tension from the underlying theme of weaving "being in character" with "reality" and the apparent inconsequence of it all. painfully rich, but very entertaining. laughed throughout.

VenetianBlond said...

Yeah, the legend is that the role of Blanche duBois in Streetcar finally pushed an already unstable Vivien Leigh over the edge, for the very reasons you describe. Yes, entertainment is inconsequential, but for an actor trying to find "truth", it can run away with them.