By Lando Da Pimp and Mr. Stinkhead
Tropic Thunder was a surprisingly hilarious movie. It wasn't quite as "out of left field" hilarious like 40 Year Old Virgin was, but it's hilarious because I don't expect to like Ben Stiller movies. I thought his TV show was pretty funny, but his "paying the bills" with Night at the Museum Along Came Polly, and Meet the Parents, I have come to expect that I won't find his movies all that funny. I was swiftly reminded that Stiller can write, and Tropic Thunder was the funniest movie of 2008.
The story: Don't get confused, it plays out on the screen pretty easily. This is a movie about stereotypical actors making a movie about the Vietnam War and it all goes wrong. Stiller is playing a slowly fading, Stallone-inspired action star named Tugg Speedman. Robert Downey Jr. is playing 5-time Oscar® winner Kirk Lazarus. The director is having a hard time coralling Speedman's incompetance and Lazarus's ego, so he drops the unit off in the middle of the jungle, planted with hidden cameras, to give their movie a realistic vibe. All things go awry, and hilarity ensues.
TAt first Tropic Thunder appears to be a setup to spoof favorite Hollywood types. There are the egos, the idiocracy, the producers, assistants, the agents, and the fanboys. If you watch any type of Hollywood Insider type show or read Chud.com, you'll get most of those jokes. There are a series of fake trailers at the beginning that are hilarious. They set the tone for the movie, and introduce each of the major actors. You have to see Downey's to believe, but my favorite was Jack Black, playing obnoxious comic Jeff Portnoy. His movie The Fatties, starring him in each role (a la the Klumps) is a fart movie. Only Jack Black could pull off this balance between self-awareness, and total immersion.
But aside from the industry jokes, the true breakout performances are Tom Cruise and Robert Downey Jr. in heavy make up. Cruise plays Les Grosman, a mogul producer with a pot belly and a foul mouth. Hearing Cruise deliver those jokes could help raise his stock. He knows how to deliver a joke, and get into a character. Its almost enough to forget about those leaked Scientology videos. Downey Jr.s role was heavily publicized as he is made up to look like a black man. His jokes are humorous, but it's funnier when you realize it's Downey, playing an Australian actor trying to be a black man, that's where it's really funny.
I enjoyed the movie itself. The basic story theme wasn't all that new, but the characters and their development and relationships were new and fresh. The language is pretty vulgar, but a lot of times that was part of the humor.
This two-disc set is pretty packed. When you get everything from highly produced making-of features, all the way to audition tapes, you know you're getting just about everything that fit on the disc. (2 discs in this case)
Blowing Shit Up
This feature is all about the explosions and special effects in the opening war scene. They show us how the heweys were used with the explosives, and the stunt actors. Stiller demanded they stay away from relying too heavily on CG effects, and you can tell by the quality in the final film. You get to meet the folks behind the explosions, see the anatomy of a scene, and see some tests and they blow up different items to get just the right blast.
The Reign of Madness
The best features on the Bonus Materials disc is the highly produced, fully fake documentary made about the movie within the movie. There is some terrific scenes of Coogan (the director) as he tries to get his picture made. I recommend watching this and Dispatches from the Edge of Madness, both have a lot of original footage that is in the same vein of the movie you watched.
The deleted/extended scenes and alternative ending were alright, but didn't bring something huge to the table that you're missing. I thought Tropic Thunder was expertly edited, and you're not missing too much.
Ben Stiller explains that they wanted to include these "full magazines" of film, so you can see how the actors improvise (ie Black tied to the tree, Danny the FX man at the bar listening to Speedman). You can see the process, and what the editor chooses from. There's some good stuff in there.
MTV Awards Bit
Here is the produced bit from the MTV Movie Awards. It's actually pretty funny, and I'm glad they included it. Nothing will compare to Jack Black's insertion into Lord of the Rings at the Movie Awards a few years ago, but this if pretty funny.
For a movie about movies, there is an appropriate amount of bonus features. There are two complete feature length commentaries (filmmaker and cast), video auditions, make-up tests, a brief history of getting the project together, and background info on the major players. I liked this movie, and I enjoyed seeing more about what went into making it.
You can buy this 2 Disc set starting today on Amazon.com