I have to preface this review by admitting to the fact that I cannot stand Ben Stiller. I mean I downright loathe the guy. I never bothered with Meet the Fockers, tolerated him in Dodgeball and think that Zoolander is retarded. I use to wonder why people liked him – did somebody say Wonder?
Enjoy the Hanukkah cookie, man.
However, I went into Tropic Thunder willing to suspend all of that for a movie that I really wanted to like and I was not disappointed. Tropic Thunder is one of the best movies I’ve seen this year, hitting the comedy and the action on higher marks than almost any other movie I’ve seen attempt to do both. Opening with the final scene of the movie within a movie being filmed, the gunfire and explosions feel like a real Vietnam movie and the over the top performances are also instantly recognizable as staples of today’s large ‘event driven’ movies. I was hooked and loved every scene in this movie. The story moved along swiftly bouncing between characters and storylines and the dialogue was distinct and clever, especially for such a diverse array of characters who are all essentially the same kind of people; actors. From the opening shots, Stiller directs the movie confidently and with the help of Academy Award winning cinematographer John Toll, the film looks and feels exactly like the ones it’s attempting to parody.
The film is first and foremost a parody. That’s why Robert Downey Jr. was able to pull off something so remarkable in fashioning three amazing characters all in a single role, something not even Peter Sellers did. As Australian actor Kirk Lazarus, black Army vet Sgt. Lincoln Osirus and an Asian rice farmer, he was magnetizing to watch every moment he was on screen. From explaining the emotional sting of the word nigger to the only actual black cast member to flattering Speedman’s physique in order to deceive him, every line out of his mouth is comic gold. And, he would be the best part of this movie if it were not for Tom Cruise. Yes, Tom Cruise as Les Grossman is the wildest role he has ever taken in his career. I haven’t laughed harder at somebody dropping f-bombs since Steve Martin at the rental car agency in Planes, Trains and Automobiles. He’s so funny, it’s like watching Alec Baldwin in 30 Rock when you think to yourself, “Why haven’t they been doing this all along?” Dancing, cursing and balding, Cruise is as you never seen him before and worth a ticket price all on his own.
Ok, this bit is also pretty funny.
The rest of the cast is great too, including Jack Black, friend of the blog Bill Hader, Matthew McConaughey actually acting and quickly becoming a favorite Danny McBride. I’ve already seen it a few times and am desperately trying to take my mother to see it. She’s a huge Tom Cruise fan and we saw Lions for Lambs and Collateral together. I think she’ll enjoy this one as much as I did. While it looks like a busy fall season, I think Tropic Thunder has the legs to hold up as one of my top five of the year.