Posted at 8:58 PM on August 13, 2008
by Euan Kerr
A Moviemaker Magazine article quotes Ben Stiller as saying he knows his new film "Tropic Thunder" will probably upset people. What is interesting is, at least in the quote I read, he thinks it will be military personnel who'll get rubbed the wrong way.
This makes you wonder if he understands his material, particularly as he directs as well as acts in this war movie satire.
Actually "Tropic Thunder" pokes fun at a bunch of people, and some of it is funny and a great deal of it isn't. And the military has the least to worry about.
The premise of the film is a bunch of actors making a Vietnam action flick are so out of control that the hapless British director Damien Cockburn, (played with disheveled freneticism by Steve Coogan,) comes up with the idea of putting his thespians out in the jungle for real. He tells them they are going to be filmed by hidden cameras and it's up to them to complete the scenes he has given them.
At least that's the plan, but unbeknownst to the group of dysfunctional stars there is a real guerrilla group working in the area doing a little drug smuggling. They mistake the actors for real drug agents and start shooting real bullets. Comic mayhem is then meant to ensue.
Amongst the group is Stiller, who plays an action hero entering the twilight years of his career. Jack Black plays a comedian whose drug habits are threatening to rob him of his questionable career playing characters who get most of their laughs through flatulence. And Robert Downey Jr. plays a blond Australian method actor who gets a controversial skin dye job so he can play the role of a black Marine.
The parts where the actors make fun of themselves and the foibles of their trade are quite brilliant.
The other parts - not so much.
In fact there are moments particularly where Stiller's character reprises his role a developmentally disabled man, said to be considered the worst film ever made, you wonder if the film is so lost it will never find its way back. Some people have complained it's offensive. It's also a little pointless.
The plot does get back on track though and even ends on the high note with a remarkable performance by a guest artist who has set new standards for strange actor behavior in his time.
All in all it has echoes of the "Three Amigos," another film with great comedic talent, but which was ultimately a waste of time.
At least THREE AMIGOS had the singing bush!