Ken's Review: Tropic Thunder - Falls A Bit Short of Expectations

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.

Robert Downey Jr. plays Australian actor Kirk Lazarus who underwent surgery to change his skin color as a method actor in Tropic Thunder.Tropic Thunder Review

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.

The platoon makes their way through the jungle in a rescue attempt during Tropic Thunder.Tropic Thunder Review

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.

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I completely disagree with you on this one Ken! Your criticism here is exactly what I thought for Pineapple Express instead. On the other hand, I LOVED Tropic Thunder. I've seen both Pineapple Express and Tropic Thunder twice now, and Tropic is a better movie, hands down. The comedy and action did flow seamlessly together and kept up the whole movie, whereas Pineapple Express really felt rather bland in some parts. I'm guessing part of my opinion comes from the fact that I love war movies. Not only did I enjoy Tropic Thunder for its war aspects, but it was just a much more solid action comedy from start to finish. When I wasn't laughing my ass off, I was smiling. I know everyone is comparing this and Pineapple and I wish I could just look at Tropic Thunder by itself. Honestly, you're very off on this Ken and I hope you check it out a few more times and really see it for what it is. Pineapple Express was a great movie, but Tropic Thunder thoroughly kicked its ass.

Alex Billington on Aug 13, 2008


hahahahah alex ^ lol

sean on Aug 13, 2008


SMACK THAT ASS ALEX!! lololololol XD

Carlos on Aug 13, 2008


Alex, thank you for defending Tropic Thunder. You are a god among the arguments that happen on this site.

Josh M on Aug 13, 2008


I haven't even seen Tropic Thunder yet and I agree with Alex, Pineapple Express was actually not very good considering the body of work Judd A and friends have been putting out lately, I think maybe for me its because all of his other movies are honest and a little naive and funny as hell and *almost* seem like they could happen IRL. This last one, no way, its got these lovable guys, but they witness murder, start killing people themselves etc etc, it seemed like way too much, and way to unrealistic for me to really take it seriously or enjoy the comedy. At least with Tropic Thunder the violence is so expected and expected to be outrageous that it will work I'm sure. I guess I'm just still pissed off that I didn't really like Pineapple Express that much.

Richard on Aug 13, 2008


Ken, Thank you for not jumping on the Tropic Thunder train that has taken over the online movie community. I 100% agree with you on this review. TT just didn't do it as much for me as Pineapple Express did. I also find it rude that someone would come on your review and try and discredit every thing you said. It is completely egotistical for Alex to say that you are "very off" when it is entirely possible (and in my mind this is the case) that he is "very off".

Ben on Aug 13, 2008


It is fine to express a differing opinion, but to try and make someone seem "off" for not seeing eye to eye with you is rude and big-headed.

Ben on Aug 13, 2008


Differing on opinion is not rude. Some would like something while others won't. Consensus, though, seems to fall in the favor of Tropic Thunder. Not to take anything from your opinion... just sayin'

Keyser Soze on Aug 13, 2008


I am waiting to see this during the weekend with my girlfriend so I cant give my opinion on it but I have heard from friends who have seen it that the comedy is about making fun of hollywood while Pineapple Express was through and through a pot smoking action film...I have to say I will probably enjoy Tropic more because I am not a fan of pot humor and I only enjoyed part of Pineapple Express (mostly the action scenes mixed with comedy)... I also agree that Alex shouldn't have come here and tried to discredit the review but I do have one problem with the review and that is it is compared to Pineapple Express too much...this film should be looked at independently...I do agree that comedies are one of those genre of film that most people wont agree on....everyone has a different sense of humor...a few of my friends LOVED Pineapple express because they are active in the pot smoking community while I am not so they enjoyed more of the humor... Tropic Thunder looks more my speed and I cant wait to see it

Maxx on Aug 13, 2008


Don't worry guys... Ken knew my criticism was coming! And I'm not trying to discredit him, I'm just stating my own opinion here in the comments... Goodness! 🙂

Alex Billington on Aug 13, 2008


Tropic Thunder was much better than P.Express. Easily. I want to see Tropic Thunder again in theaters with a larger crowd. I want to wait to rent P.Express to see it again.

Great on Aug 13, 2008


Both films look less than appealing to me. I'm going to see them both eventually, though I'm not expecting much.

Brad on Aug 13, 2008


Okay, I've seen Tropic Thunder now and it's hands down waaay more entertaining than Pineapple Express. I can't say if it 'lived up to my expectaions' or not but it was clever while Pineapple wasn't, and totally engaging while Pineapple mostly made me feel like I'd wasted my money. And Tom Cruise's cameo was hilarious. Thanks, too, for deleting my first post.

RandyG on Aug 13, 2008


this movie was hilarious, i havnt liked tom cruise lately but they need to nominate him for an academy award for this haha, just priceless him talking to the flaming dragons. i dont think ive seen so many great actors in the same film before except maybe oceans 13. and you forgot alpa chinos preview/commercial for ball sweat or whatever it was haha

harrison on Aug 14, 2008


I'm on Ken's side. The movie had its moments, but mostly fell short of the high expectations I set for myself after reading previews online. I feel that with a cast as loaded as Tropic Thunder's was there were some missed opportunities. Oh well, it was entertaining and well worth my 5$ ticket price.

Chris on Aug 14, 2008


I agree with Alex, if I wasn't laughing I was smiling throughout the entire movie.

Brian on Aug 14, 2008


5 dollar tickets? Where are you?

Maxx on Aug 14, 2008


I thought it was pretty damn funny, and to be honest I was surprised about some of the stuff that was allowed in the movie. Funny stuff, but not a repeat watch for me.

Movie Reviews on Aug 14, 2008


I find it funny that sites like this spend months hyping up expectations (for their readers) on coming films from their favorite directors/producers/actors... and then later complain that said films failed to meet the very expectations they created in the first place. When I finally went to see The Dark Knight, I have to say that it, in fact, failed to meet the utterly stratospheric expectations that were created by this and other fanboy sites. Sure, it was a great, first class film. But it wasn't what I "expected" based on all of the hype here and elsewhere.

cufford on Aug 14, 2008


I agree with Ken on this one. I was hoping and waiting to laugh from beginning to end and the film was definitely disjointed, funny but disjointed. Alpa Chino was good and Jack Black seemed out of place in some bits. I think if we took the enemies from RAMBO 4 and through them in this movie it would have made for a better film. Downey saved the film and he is definitely a force to be reckon with, " HOOOtttt Dayum ". Anyhow I did laugh but I feel with all the hype and viral marketing that the film fell a bit short. Just my opinion so take it for what it is worth. Pineapple Express beats this one but not that much.

dee on Aug 14, 2008


I haven't seen Pineapple Express yet but as for Tropic Thunder, I also agree with Ken on this one. It did have it's funny moments but over all it wasn't as hilarious as I thought it would be. The best thing about the film was the cast, I was surprise to see so many big names in there and then of course Downy Jr. was great also. Maybe I might need to see it a second time to appreciate it more. Just for comparison sake, I think Stiller's "There's Something About Mary" was more funny and satisfying the first time I saw it. Not to say that I didn't like TT, 7 out of 10 is still good.

Omega728 on Aug 14, 2008


Don't be hard on Alex guys! He and I usually agree on most movies so it's kinda fun for us to go back and forth on this one. Just because he is wrong doesn't mean we should be hard on him. 🙂 #19 Cufford - Yes we hyped Tropic Thunder the hype was based off of what the studio released beforehand. My expectation were created by what I saw and I didn't feel that the film met those expectations. Are you saying I shouldn't have a preconceived expectation based off of what trailers, photos, viral videos, etc... that the studio releases?!? Honestly I don't think that's possible.

Ken Evans on Aug 14, 2008


What it comes down to is Pineapple Express lived up to the hilarity in the trailers, and Tropic Thunder didn't. It's your average movie that uses the best parts in the trailers. The only reason I'd want to see it again is because of Tom Cruise. Every moment he was on screen was hysterical.

Tom on Aug 14, 2008


I was totally disappointed with this movie, especially after the buzz Alex created for it before its release. If it wasnt for Downey Jr and Tom Cruise, who played the most outrageously interestingly unique characters in the movie, it would of fallen completely flat. I was expecting more out of Jack Black's character, and many of the Ben Stiller scenes seemed similar to his character in Dodgeball (although Simple Jack was great). Anyway, I enjoyed Pineapple Express more.

Mike 8 on Aug 14, 2008


See I liked the movie a lot and I liked the fact that every character was kinda making fun of the characters they were playing. I also caught the gist of them making fun of other war movies. Like when stiller was getting shot many times in the back and fell to his knees, clearly a joke against the movie "Platoon". Downing Jr stole the show of course, and I now have much much more respect for Mr. Cruise. I did like pineapple express but to me part of this review reminded me on how I felt about pineapple express. I kinda didn't like how it turned into a action movie at the end. Yes it was funny but it was kinda right field compared to the rest of the movie. Overall both movies were very good and very hilarious.

Curtis on Aug 14, 2008


I agree with Alex's rebuttal in comment #1. The violence in Pineapple Ex. got really weird at the end, when the two previously non-violent guys just start popping people and shrugging it off like they were Jules and Vincent. The drug smugglers in both films actually were a bit of a letdown, but especially here where our gang of actors somehow manage to bust out of their camp firing off blanks and using a couple of smoke grenades. I think that fits in better with this film than blowing off ears and smashing people with hatchbacks fit into Pineapple Express though.

kevjohn on Aug 14, 2008


At least you came around on Mystery Men. That is near the top of my underrated movie list.

Nathan on Aug 14, 2008


Stiller is the WOAT!!!!!!!!!!!!(worst of all time)

Tim "Cloverfield" on Aug 15, 2008


I just got back from the movie. I laughed out loud 6-7 times and teared up. The action was good like in a real action movie. Some of the stuff was so absurd, it was hilarious. There were a couple of slow points in the movie and a few gags that didn't work. Over all, it was a pretty funny movie. It will be much funnier for people that enjoy old Platoon type movies which they are parodying. All the fake trailers were funny, especially the one with Toby Maguire in The Devil's Alley. Robert Downey Jr. totally funny as the dude playing the dude, disguised as another dude. I agree that Jack Black was under used a little. Tom Cruise was in a good part of the movie and was also funny. The opening parody scene of Platoon was hilarious too.

Mayhem Studios on Aug 17, 2008


this is my first viewing of this piece of shit website, and just reading a few articles and this review i have come to the conclusion that i could have been a writer for firstshowing in eighth grade. kill yourselves.

christ on Aug 23, 2008


Hey, Jesus, you might be right about that. Let us know when you finally make it to eight grade and I'm sure the FirstShowing will be willing to give you a tryout.

kevjohn on Aug 23, 2008


Robert Downey Jr. cracks me up... he's got a knack for not taking himself too seriously

movie junkie on Aug 26, 2008


This has just arrived on uk screens.. Yup I think you mixed the 2 movies up! The Pineapple Express action felt so dis-jointed and cheesy - like some old 90's flick that I slipped right out of comedy mode and was waiting for it to end. Whereas Tropic Thunder just worked all the way through... the first half including the fake trailers (stroke of genius - these filmmakers know how to keep themselves contemporary!) and the opening action scene - then the characters develop and with a great colourful backdrop. I loved the characters (except for Black who was just annoying until they tied him to a tree!).. and the cameos from Matthew and Tom were spot on and worked cos they were made for them! I was actually thinking, what made this work was that Ben Stiller didnt take a simple thin idea that he attempted to stretch out over the length of a film (see wayan brothers) but instead tried lots of different things and then moved on never repeating. The story was right up my street too.. I love it when films take the piss out of film making process, and to set that to a vietnam war backdrop - hell yeah! DVD ordered! Ben Stiller you are gold, keep it up.

dom on Sep 18, 2008


Ha - I hate it when people try to read to much into these films - if you like Ben Stiller / Adam Sandler films you'll love this

rich on Jun 27, 2009

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