- Ben Stiller
- Reviewed by
- Gon Curiel a.k.a. Groucho
- Review date
- Tuesday, September 23, 2008
The film-inside-a-film gimmick has so much potential itís incredible how spoiled it is because no subtlety is allowed in Stillerís films. Donít take me wrong, I agree that over-the-top humor is potentially as powerful as can be, and there are many examples that I love, but when overused, it becomes mean-spirited, and I was intimidated by this film from the very first sequence: The super-production of a super-production of a war film based on a book called ďTropic ThunderĒ, about the real-life experiences of a veteran and his legendary companions. The sequence goes awry in great part thanks to the prima donnas in the cast, and the investors get quite mad at the inexperienced ďLimeyĒ director (played by Steve Coogan).
The divas in question are action star Tugg Speedman (Ben Stiller), cheap comedy idol Jeff Portnoy (Jack Black), rapper Alpa Chino (Brandon T. Jackson) and multi-Oscar winner Kirk Lazarus (Robert Downey Jr.). Their director canít control them and gets an idea from the real-life war veteran whose story their film is based on (Nick Nolte) to put their actors in a real war scenario to make them forget about their pampered realities and get into character once and for all.
I was starting to get excited: the intent goes too far and these guys are stuck in what seems to be a real war and while they think itís all made up by their director, true danger arises. My heart filled with wonder about what would come next. What came was as mean and unpleasant as possible. Within the extremes there were funny bits, but overall it was unfortunate. Also, Stillerís character became more and more like Zoolander, but with extra existentialism that made me sorely miss the prosaic male supermodel.
The standout is Robert Downey Jr. mocking fun at method actors who get into their characters in flesh and bone and it seems to mess with their minds. His character, Kirk Lazarus, is an Aussie playing an African-American and goes so far as to undergo a skin pigmentation procedure to really become the man heís portraying. The very fact that heís in character all the time, no matter how extreme or absurd the situation, is hilarious. That thereís an authentic African-American with him (the ridiculously named Alpa Chino) who canít take what he considers a disrespectful interpretation of his people is the funniest bit. Downey is brilliant.
I can say that the performances are game in all. Stiller provides nothing new, but Black goes places he never went before. There are a few cameos that arenít revolutionary but provide good fun. The character of Stillerís manager, played by Matthew McConaughey, was so perfect for Owen Wilson that one canít but lament that he had to drop out.
I wouldnít see this again, but it wasnít a total waste. I just wish Stiller would channel his talent better. But who am I to tell whatís better or worse?
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Other reviews of Tropic Thunder (2008): Morris