Zoolander goes to Vietnam
Despite at times feeling like an extension of Ben Stiller's other famous creation "Zoolander" it has to be said that "Tropic Thunder" is an entertaining comedy which whilst being a little long keeps you entertained from start to finish. Ripping into the world of movie making there are few areas which "Tropic Thunder" doesn't attempt to make fun off and in a brave step Stiller even covers the taboo subject of white actors playing coloured roles. But it's not just the ripping of Hollywood which makes "Tropic Thunder" such good fun as it is full of cameos and supporting performances from Tom Cruise's comic turn as the obnoxious Les Grossman to Jon Voight who sends himself up brilliantly.
Whilst shooting a movie in South East Asia and with problems causing the movie to fall behind schedule, the director and a few of the cast & crew head into the jungle to film some footage. But when an accident befalls the director and the actors find themselves under attack from a group of local drug dealers unaware that it's not part of the movie putting them all in serious danger and in need to man up to save themselves.
Whilst "Tropic Thunder" does have a storyline, one surrounding these actors stuck in the middle of a jungle whilst making a movie, it really isn't what "Tropic Thunder" is about. Nope "Tropic Thunder" is Ben Stiller's clever stab at showing how daft movie making is and as such tackles almost every element embellishing them to comic proportions. That means we have actors who are in love with themselves, megalomaniac producers in the shape of Tom Cruise's Les Grossman, drug issues, exuberant special effects gurus and so on. There really is nothing left out as Stiller and writing partners Justin Theroux and Etan Cohen delight in almost spoofing everything to do with Hollywood including award ceremonies, movie sequels and I really could go on because there is nothing left out.
Of course making a comedy of movie making is at times a little risky and not just because some of the jokes will only be picked up by those aware of the idiosyncrasies of Hollywood. In what many will see as a very risky and brave step Stiller gave us Robert Downey Jr. playing a white method actor playing a black guy. Taken purely on face value it could be seen as risky but Stiller handles it brilliantly by showing how wrong the system is that the producers would rather employ a bankable name playing the wrong character rather than someone who may be more appropriate but would be a financial risk. And at the same time "Tropic Thunder" also has Brandon T. Jackson as Alpa Chino who being a black actor gets to rip into Downey's character making the risky move come off and showing the system for what it is.
As such Robert Downey Jr. is on fine form as Kirk Lazarus an Award winning Australian method actor who undergoes a skin pigmentation operation to deliver authenticity. Downey exaggerates every aspect of a method actor from staying in character through to changing themselves physically to come across as more real. It's such a brilliant performance he literally puts everyone else in the shade including Ben Stiller and Jack Black.
As for Ben Stiller well Tugg Speedman may not be Derek Zoolander but there are a lot of similarities and it does at times feel like a slight extension of Stiller's previous character. And then there is Jack Black as actor Jeff Portnoy who has a drug issue, or a huge love for jelly beans, again overshadowed by Robert Downey Jr. but still an entertaining character especially that Portnoy is a character with a history in movies not unlike Eddie Murphy with his series of movies called "The Fatties".
But it's not just the main stars which make "Tropic Thunder" work because there are plenty of fine supporting performances and cameos from Steve Coogan as director Damien Cockburn through to Matthew McConaughey as Speedman's agent Rick Peck. But the best supporting performance comes from Tom Cruise's as profanity spewing producer Les Grossman. You probably don't think of Tom Cruise as doing comedy or as a balding middle aged man but he pulls it off in such an exuberant manner it's no surprise that there is now talk of making a Les Grossman movie.
My only real negative is that at 102 minutes, which in itself isn't hugely long, "Tropic Thunder" does go on just a little too long. The onslaught of jokes tied into the storyline about these actors ends up becoming a little too much and in a strange way you're glad it's all over when the credits finally roll.
What this all boils down to is that "Tropic Thunder" is a surprisingly entertaining movie. It's by no means great but with the funny look at the whole world of movie making where nothing is taboo when it comes to making fun of it is a very funny movie. It is a little long and at times feels like an onslaught of jokes but it is one of the more original and funnier films to have been made in the last few years.