Tropic Thunder

Rating: 1 Pulse

Starring Ben Stiller, Robert Downey Jr., Jack Black

Directed by Ben Stiller

Rated R

It seems that the adult-oriented R-rated comedy is a dying breed, with most recent films swapping curse words for farts and turds aimed at teens. This summer there is a small resurgence of heavily promoted movies that let us grown-ups enjoy the more colorful nuances of the English language. Unfortunately, Tropic Thunder (starring, written and directed by Ben Stiller) fails to deliver the laughs of its pot-smoking and man-child brethren.

Tropic Thunder is the name of the movie within the movie that five diverse, dim-witted actors are attempting to adapt from a book of the same name. When the filming is headed for Waterworld-like disaster, the director, in a harebrained attempt to save the film, sets up an obstacle course through the jungle with hidden cameras. What happens instead involves real heroin makers with real guns and a bunch of guys who think they’re making a movie.

This convoluted meta-film tries to decry the machine that made it: namely Hollywood, but instead winds up seeking laughs from stereotypical caricatures with hardly an ounce of wit. Robert Downey Jr.’s character, a method actor who takes his trade too far, is given too much screen time to be anything but an offensive stereotype. Tom Cruise as the venom spitting movie mogul seems a more accurate portrayal than a condemning caricature of studio execs, or himself. Besides, everyone knows Hollywood can be both luxurious and loathsome. There is a level of detachment for the common American who just doesn’t care about the woes of an actor who can’t get his TiVo while filming in Vietnam, satirical or not.

The two saving graces of this film come from Jay Baruchel, the only sane and funny character, and Danny R. McBride (of Pineapple Express). Of course, if you, like I, find McBride to be a highlight of the movie, you’d probably be better off seeing Pineapple Express, which actually succeeds in turning the action genre on its head while also paying it loving tribute.


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