Ken's Review: Tropic Thunder - Falls A Bit Short of Expectations
by Ken Evans
August 13, 2008
More than any other film genre, comedies are all about opinion. If you watch a comedy that isn't your type of humor, you're just not going to like it. Other factors can sometimes include who you see it with or the attitude of the audience in the theater. There have been times where I have seen a comedy, like Mystery Men, that didn't seem funny the first time but then when I went again with different friends, I thought it was hilarious. Last week I had a similar experience when I saw Tropic Thunder. While I did think it had some really clever and funny parts, overall it just didn't do that much for me.
Damien Cockburn (Steve Coogan) is the director on the set of Tropic Thunder, a film about the survival of a few soldiers during the Vietnam War. Cast in the leading roles are Kirk Lazarus (Robert Downey Jr.), Tugg Speedman (Ben Stiller) and Jeff Portnoy (Jack Black) all of whom have let there ego's go to their heads and are impossible for director Damien to control. Wanting to make his movie as realistic as possible and teach the actors a lesson, he decides to drop them out in the jungle and plans to film them with hidden cameras. Soon the actors stumble upon a drug smugglers camp and find themselves fighting for their lives.
This was really a mixed bag for me. While I found some parts hilarious, other parts seemed out of place or just goofy. I definitely wasn't laughing my way through it from start to finish, but still seemed to enjoy it. It might have been that I hyped myself way too much for it, watching the different trailers and viral videos. I also might have had too high of expectations from the unbelievable cast that director Ben Stiller put together. For me, the comedy just seemed too disjointed and didn't tie together during the length of the film. Funny sections here and there, but ultimately it didn't work.
While this is definitely an action/comedy, I didn't think the action mixed well with the comedy. Unlike Pineapple Express, where they did an excellent job of blending the car chase and action sequences with the humor, Tropic Thunder didn't achieve that right mix. I think what really bugged me was how corny and cheesy the drug smugglers turned out to be. Once the threat of any real violence was gone, the situation seemed to lose its humor. Some of the scenes even felt like a spoof on war movies made by the Wayans Brothers, which is a feeling I never want to have.
I know it seems like I'm totally ragging on Tropic Thunder, but there were some moments of genius that made it a movie I still enjoyed and was glad I saw. The opening is made up of three fake trailers representing movies soon to be released by each of the main actors. While Jack Black's trailer was only okay, the other two for Stiller and Downey Jr. were hysterical! I can't wait to see those trailers again.
Any scene with Robert Downey Jr. was great. I'm sure everyone going to see it knows about the surgery he has and all the jokes that they are able to do with it. I thought maybe all his funny parts had already been shown in the trailer, but I'm so glad I was wrong. Getting to see his character again would absolutely be the reason I would go see Tropic Thunder again. And Ben Stiller will forever now be remembered as Simple Jack, even moreso because of the boycott. Jack Black seemed almost left out and while he had a few funny parts, was widely underused. And I have to mention Tom Cruise as the head of the production studio. He has a few scenes that were extremely funny only because it was Tom Cruise playing the part. Had it been anyone else, it definitely wouldn't have worked as well.
Overall I did enjoy Tropic Thunder. While in my opinion it's not as good or as funny as Pineapple Express, it was still an enjoyable, well-done film that most people are going to like. I'm definitely going to see it again and give it another chance. Perhaps it's the type of humor, like Mystery Men, that will take me a few viewings to truly appreciate. Or it might have just been a popcorn comedy that, while enjoyable, will go in and out of the theater without any lasting effect. I think only time will tell with Tropic Thunder.