Movie Review

Film Review: Tropic Thunder

As parody-comedies go, Tropic Thunder is at the near top of its game. It has great actors to portray its characters, a clearly defined plot, moments of absolute hilarity and some nice action sequences. Writer, producer, actor and director Ben Stiller has created a film with enough satire, action and comedy to satiate the gore and humor hound in most genre seekers.

The plot of Tropic Thunder is clever but not original. A movie is being filmed within the film that the viewer is watching. The film within a film is about the Vietnam War, familiar fare if you’ve seen Hamburger Hill, Full Metal Jacket and Apocalypse Now (to name a few). The actors chosen to bring this film and the book it’s based on, to life range from thespians to up-and-coming rappers.

Many people steal the show in Tropic Thunder, but none do it better than Kirk Lazarus (Robert Downey, Jr.) and Les Grossman (Tom Cruise). Going in, the viewer (having viewed Tropic Thunder’s trailer) knows Downey is going to be extremely funny but Tom Cruise steals ever scene he is in. Downey steals most of the scenes he is in but Cruise steals them all. He is the center piece of ever scene he inhabits. What makes Grossman even more potent is that all the “Tom Cruise-ness” has been taken away through make-up and prosthetics. Tom Cruise is not the only surprise in Tropic Thunder. There are a few others, including cameos from other famous actors, actresses and models. If the viewer has seen Stiller’s Zoolander, this should come as no surprise.

To bring Tropic Thunder’s self-indulgent actors back down to earth ego-wise, the film’s technical supervisor (and author of the book the currently filming movie is based on), John “Four Leaf” Tayback (Nick Nolte), suggests throwing them into a unrehearsed situation, shot guerrilla style, away from all the accoutrements they have become used to on movie sets and delving, head first, into “the shit.”

This is the point in Tropic Thunder where fiction and reality become intertwined in less obvious and more intrinsic ways than a viewer might initially think in the film. Yes, Tropic Thunder is a spoof of some notable films like Platoon and other action/war films but it is also making fun of the film industry itself and all its participants. The studio heads, the agents, the directors, the assistants and the actors are all far game in this film. I don’t know if Tropic Thunder is making fun of any particular Hollywood individual but it wouldn’t surprise me if a few notables were in mind when this film was conceived by Stiller in 1987 and later written by him, Etan Cohen and Justin Theroux.

The violence in Tropic Thunder is gratuitous but laughable at the same time. Of all the characters, Ben Stiller plays one of the most interesting. Stiller plays Tugg Speedman, a fading action star trying to rebound while at the same time take on more serious acting roles (some more successful than others). Tugg is portraying Four Leaf in the Tropic Thunder film within Tropic Thunder.

Tropic Thunder has multiple laugh-out-loud moments. Stiller cleverly gave the character Lazarus is portraying in black face, Sgt. Lincoln Osiris, the foil of an authentic African-American cast member, Alpa Chino (Branden T. Jackson), to dispel the stereotypes that Kirk is propagating. At one point in Tropic Thunder, Chino says Lazarus was given the only good ethnic role in the film and he is absolutely correct. When Aussie stereotypes are thrown back in Kirk’s Australian face, he doesn’t like that too much. By that point in the film however, the viewer is indifferent to any ethnic discomfort Lazarus might have. After all, turnabout is fair play.

No character in Tropic Thunder is perfect (see Jack Black as Jeff “Fats” Portnoy) and neither is Chino, who shamelessly sneaks his beverage into the shooting of Tropic Thunder. Chino’s “Booty Sweat” energy drink is clearly a knock-off of rapper Nelly’s similar drink entitled Pimp Juice as much as Yonica Babyyeah in War, Inc. was one of Britney Spears.

Tropic Thunder is not as continuously funny as Old School or Badder Santa (the uncut version of Bad Santa) but when it is funny, it’s uproarious. When a certain character starts imitating what is common place in some rap videos and begins dancing under a spot light is a text-book example of this and is also one of how to end a comedy, especially a spoofing comedy, right.

Rating: 9/10

Soundtrack Review for Tropic Thunder

If you enjoyed this review, subscribe to our full RSS feed or by e-mail to be informed when we post new ones.

 

About the author

Rollo Tomasi

A Political Science and MBA grad who started FilmBook during an eCommerce B-School course in 2008. Cinema and TV addict. Former writer at Empire Movies, Blogcritics, and Alternative Film Guide. In addition to writing for FilmBook, he also edits the copy published on the website, manages its writing staff, manages the back-end operations, site finances, its social network accounts, and works with publicists, actors, and companies on press coverage and promotions. He has also created ProMovieBlogger.com and Trending Awards.com.

  • Excellent review. You hit all the highlights, Cruise and Downey being the biggest.

    Reel Whores last blog post..Cruz Crushin’ – Part 2

  • Excellent review. You hit all the highlights, Cruise and Downey being the biggest.

    Reel Whores last blog post..Cruz Crushin’ – Part 2

  • Hugo

    Whats cool is that every actor has one shining, hilarious moment even if no one overshadowed Downey. For Black it was when he was tied to the tree and offered to blow everyone if they let him loose.

  • Hugo

    Whats cool is that every actor has one shining, hilarious moment even if no one overshadowed Downey. For Black it was when he was tied to the tree and offered to blow everyone if they let him loose.

  • @1 Thx Whore.

    @2 That Jack Black moment was ruined for me because I listened to a howard stern broadcast (where they talked about the film) before I saw it. They were saying how that character is a knock-off of Artie.

  • @1 Thx Whore.

    @2 That Jack Black moment was ruined for me because I listened to a howard stern broadcast (where they talked about the film) before I saw it. They were saying how that character is a knock-off of Artie.

  • @Hugo: You’re definitely right that each xter gets a moment to shine. Black’s tree moment was his best and I’m glad it wasn’t ruined for me.

    Reel Whores last blog post..Cruz Crushin’ – Part 2

  • @Hugo: You’re definitely right that each xter gets a moment to shine. Black’s tree moment was his best and I’m glad it wasn’t ruined for me.

    Reel Whores last blog post..Cruz Crushin’ – Part 2

  • Lew1

    I really did not like this film. It seemed to be trying to hard. Your right in saying that there were funny bits and Downey jrs chracter was funny, but other then that i thought that it was a sub par film. On the plus side I did like Danny McBrides chracter but if you like his stuff I would recomend The foot fist way now that was a funny film. I have to say that Tropic Thunder dissapointed and it could have been better. Why was the bad guy a little kid? was that meant to be funny?

  • Lewis

    I really did not like this film. It seemed to be trying to hard. Your right in saying that there were funny bits and Downey jrs chracter was funny, but other then that i thought that it was a sub par film. On the plus side I did like Danny McBrides chracter but if you like his stuff I would recomend The foot fist way now that was a funny film. I have to say that Tropic Thunder dissapointed and it could have been better. Why was the bad guy a little kid? was that meant to be funny?

  • I saw this film after it had been in theater for three weeks and I was the loudest guy in the theater (there were only about twenty or thirty people in attendance). I was laughing my ass off at Downey and Cruise. I did not even know Cruise or McConaughey were in the film before I sat down to watch it. Great surprise. Cruise stole every scene and his dance at the end of the film was hysterical. I loved when he held up his chain like a rapper.

    The bad guy being a little child was meant to be funny though I did not find it so. I was amused, nothing more.

  • I saw this film after it had been in theater for three weeks and I was the loudest guy in the theater (there were only about twenty or thirty people in attendance). I was laughing my ass off at Downey and Cruise. I did not even know Cruise or McConaughey were in the film before I sat down to watch it. Great surprise. Cruise stole every scene and his dance at the end of the film was hysterical. I loved when he held up his chain like a rapper.

    The bad guy being a little child was meant to be funny though I did not find it so. I was amused, nothing more.

  • Lew1

    Ok so i watched the film again and yes it was quite funny. You should see the foot fist way know that is funny. I love a film with alot of improv and this film has tons if not all of it.

  • Lewis

    Ok so i watched the film again and yes it was quite funny. You should see the foot fist way know that is funny. I love a film with alot of improv and this film has tons if not all of it.

  • Told you.
    The same thing happened the first time I watched The Big Lebowski. It had been built up so much before I saw it I laughed twice. Upon watching it again with lowered expectations I was laughing my ass off. In Tropic Thunder’s case, it was funny to me instantly.
    Stiller wrote a great script.

  • Told you.
    The same thing happened the first time I watched The Big Lebowski. It had been built up so much before I saw it I laughed twice. Upon watching it again with lowered expectations I was laughing my ass off. In Tropic Thunder’s case, it was funny to me instantly.
    Stiller wrote a great script.

  • Lew1

    I have never seen that film The Big Lebowski well i have seen bits and peices so i might have to watch it all. Thats the problem these films get hyped up so much that when you see the film you have already seen all the best bits on the clips they keep showing and then you don’t find it funny anymore. Not to hark on about the foot fist way but because it had hardley no hype when i saw it had no idea what i was in for and it was the funniest things i have ever seen. Watch the alternitive ending soooo funny.

  • Lewis

    I have never seen that film The Big Lebowski well i have seen bits and peices so i might have to watch it all. Thats the problem these films get hyped up so much that when you see the film you have already seen all the best bits on the clips they keep showing and then you don’t find it funny anymore. Not to hark on about the foot fist way but because it had hardley no hype when i saw it had no idea what i was in for and it was the funniest things i have ever seen. Watch the alternitive ending soooo funny.

  • I went into Tropic Thunder relatively cold so I had a good time.

    Maybe I will check out The Foot Fist Way when I get a chance.

  • I went into Tropic Thunder relatively cold so I had a good time.

    Maybe I will check out The Foot Fist Way when I get a chance.

  • Lew1

    please do its got a huge cult following. Yeah that what you need to do is go to see the film without knowing much about it.

  • Lewis

    please do its got a huge cult following. Yeah that what you need to do is go to see the film without knowing much about it.

  • Except for films like Watchmen. I like reading the source material first before seeing films of that nature.

  • Except for films like Watchmen. I like reading the source material first before seeing films of that nature.

Mega Menu

Send this to friend