Kevin's Review: Tropic Thunder - 80% Chance for Torrential Laughter

August 12, 2008

When you hit an amusement park, you can expect to encounter a wide range of rides, each with its own story and unique experience. There's the old-fashioned mine ride, alongside the flashy adventure coaster, set next to the dark and creepy slow-goer. Some amusements are more fun than others, but the variety and excitement usually makes for a good time. That's pretty much how Ben Stiller's Tropic Thunder goes. With an insane array of off-beat and cleverly crafted Hollywood archetypes, Tropic Thunder is one of the funniest outings of the summer. Sure, there is some downtime between rides, but any feeling of 'waiting around' is fleeting. The ultimate attraction proves to be the king of the season, Robert Downey Jr., whose performance is worth the price of admission alone.

If you haven't heard, Downey, bucking traditional racial no-nos, plays a black guy in the film named Sgt. Osiris. Well, actually, Downey plays Australian award-winning actor Kirk Lazarus, who's the ultimate method actor, having undergone a skin tinting procedure to fully immerse himself in the role. Lazarus, along with big-budget action lead Tugg Speedman (Ben Stiller), portly and bawdy comedian Jeff Portnoy (Jack Black) and young rapper Alpa Chino (Brandon Jackson), are the lead actors in a Vietnam War film that aims to be the biggest, most expensive war movie in history. With the clashing of egos and the film derailing, director Damien Cockburn (Steve Coogan) and military consultant "Four Leaf" Tayback (Nick Nolte) hatch a plan to drop the pampered actors into true hostile territory and film the movie guerrilla style. That's the basic premise of what happens over the two-hour film, but that's not what's most interesting. The roster of characters is what makes Tropic Thunder one of the most compelling comedies this year.

Faux-actors Alpa Chino, Tugg Speedman, and Kirk Lazarus pose in a scene from Tropic Thunder.Tropic Thunder Review

While Stiller, Black and others have their own thought-out, chuckling backstories, a few characters stand out alongside Downey's - namely up-and-comer Danny McBride as the pyrotechnician, Cody, and a career-altering cameo by Tom Cruise as a big-headed and big-handed (literally) executive type. For McBride, though his role is small by all accounts, his ass-kicking, no-nonsense, red-neck persona has an effortless humility to it that is so fresh it makes Stiller and Black's schtick seem stale. (McBride is actually battling himself this month, since he also appears in the recently released Pineapple Express). And for someone who doesn't particularly care for Cruise as of late, I have to admit that while the Hollywood heavyweight packed on some fictional pounds he seemed to completely shed the ego in the role of Les Grossman. I won't give much away as to his performance, but believe me I say that you'll walk away from Tropic Thunder with a new perspective on the guy.

Downey stole the show, however. It seems almost fruitless to describe the veteran's performance because he simply was the character(s). If any caucasian guy can pull off portraying a black man of the '70s (in an un-politically correct comedy, no less) and not raise the ire of Al Sharpton, he deserves a damn medal. Without Downey's contribution, the film clearly wouldn't have near as much force. As it stands, Tropic Thunder is a storm of laughter that pours and parts with the creative personalities Stiller and fellow writer Justin Theroux bring to the screen. The "weather" certainly lets up at times, but there's little hope of keeping dry.

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nice will be there tomorrow!!!

JNYCE on Aug 12, 2008


Can't wait!

Mr. Pockets on Aug 12, 2008


Just got back from a screening of this movie. It is absolutely hilarious! Right from the very start the movie is so in your face and it doesn't let up. As Kevin mentioned, there are a few slow moments but all they do is allow you to catch your breath. Go see it - you won't be disappointed!

insomniackk on Aug 12, 2008


ooooooo man can not wait. p. express was great, this is going to be better!

sean on Aug 12, 2008


107 minutes? When I saw the preview screening around a month ago it was nearly three hours long. I thought to myself after watching that version, "Well, there was some really hilarious stuff but a bunch of boring/overdone stuff that could be cut." Hopefully they cut the dry stuff and left all the good stuff in. They better have kept the scene where Jack Black is tied to the tree and his encounter with the bat... it's priceless. Also, they better have kept every moment of Robert Downey.

dqniel on Aug 12, 2008


I want to go see this today=

Buttons on Aug 12, 2008


In about 22.34 minutes, I will have the prestigious honor of viewing this "flick," this "masterpiece of comedic genius" I am, as they say in some parts of America, "Radically ecstatic." Okay. I must depart.

Nellie on Aug 13, 2008


Just walked outta the midnight show. Fantastic. Laughed my ass off for the whole movie.

Will S. (Co Springs) on Aug 13, 2008


Hilarious, ridiculous movie. Was at a pretty uncrowded midnight show, and I have to admit that the audience for it kind of sucked. As funny as the movie was, I felt like I almost couldn't enjoy it at some parts because a lot of the people in the theater weren't laughing. Perhaps they just didn't enjoy it as much as I did.

Zach D. on Aug 13, 2008


Hey, I have little doubt this movie is hysterical, but I've noticed a pattern on this site. Almost every movie, even ones that are less enjoyed and basically get poor reviews, seem to all score well. It seems like everytime a movie has a great review, its 8/10. Then even poor reviews pulls out a 6/10. There has to be a wider scale involved in the ratings of these movies for u guys. It's ok to give a movie a 3/10 or a 9/10. later

Fattyslick on Aug 13, 2008


hey #10...I can understand where you're coming from, but I think the ratings line up pretty well. Tropic Thunder was great, but it wasn't The Dark Knight. And true, there aren't a lot of 3s or 4s going around, but that could be attributed to (a) we're not exactly a review-only site so we can be a bit skewed sometimes in seeing movies that appeal to us (and a good deal of our audience), and (b) some of the lower-rated ones don't screen ahead of time (e.g. Midnight Meat Train, Mirrors) or simply aren't distributed in our area. That might change with Alex's intended move to LA, however. But your concern is noted 🙂

kevin on Aug 13, 2008


i have to see this

Darrin on Aug 13, 2008


going to see it tomorrow and i cannot wait its going to be the comedy event of the summer. Im really looking forward to all the buzz about Tom Cruises hilarious cameo.

Curtis on Aug 13, 2008


I saw this at midnight last night and I have to say that it was quite UNDERWHELMING. Tropic Thunder had its moments, but for the most part was rather boring. My girlfriend as well as two other people I attended the show with fell asleep through the middle of the film. Tom Cruise's performance actually made me like the guy, and Robert Downey Jr. was excellent. Jack Black and Nick Nolte were 100% forgettable. If only Danny McBride had more screen time he may have been able to save this film like he did with Pineapple Express. dqniel: I don't think any of the dry stuff was cut given the amount of people snoring in the theater.

Chris on Aug 13, 2008


number 14, i believe because it was at midnight that some parts would seem worse. I would be out for anything. Even if it were the dark knight i would have fallen asleep right away!

sean on Aug 13, 2008


I just wanted to write that my face was hurting after this movie was over from laughing so much. It was the best movie experience I've had in a long time. I will be looking forward to the uncut blu-ray to see what was cut.

Brian on Aug 13, 2008


It wasn't nearly as funny as Pineapple Express. I'm so pissed at all the commercials calling it the funniest comedy of the year. And btw, Tom Cruise stole the fucking show.

Tom on Aug 14, 2008


this looks good, but I think Pineapple express will be better.

thecomedian217 on Aug 14, 2008


Saw this last night. I'll have to see it again because I missed so many lines that were drowned out by the audience's laughter. No exaggeration. I would expect that from a Friday or Saturday night showing, but I was surprised that a Wednesday night showing brought out such a large crowd. Maybe the viral marketing is working? 8 out of 10 seems just about right. I would say Tom Cruise stole the show, but Robert Downey Jr., Danny McBride, Jack Bla.... pretty much anyone in the film whose name doesn't rhyme with Fenn Biller, were so fun to watch that the whole lot of them could be charged with show stealing. That's a 3rd class felony. I think it's part of the Patriot Act, or something. Look, just don't steal shows and you won't have to worry about it, ok?

kevjohn on Aug 14, 2008


I saw both Pineapple Express and Tropic Of Thunder on the same day. I'd have to say I got at least 3 laughs more out of Tropic's than Pineapple. I think this is one of Ben Stiller's best performances. He goes beyond zoolander and fits perfectly with the rest of the cast. This is also one of Jack Black's best performances. Robert downey Jr. Jr. says one of the most funniest lines when hes around hte campfire. I laughed for at least 30 sec, it kept lingering on in my mind.

Mark c. on Aug 22, 2008


This is going to be a great movie - I want to stay in ahotel just to see it in the comfort of my room! on Sep 4, 2008


going to see it tomorrow and i cannot wait its going to be the comedy event of the summer. Im really looking forward to all the buzz about Tom Cruises hilarious cameo.

Carmen on Dec 28, 2010

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