NO SPOILER ALERT NECESSARY
There are comedies aimed at teenagers, comedies aimed at women, at families, and urban audiences. And now, finally, comes a comedy aimed strictly for the 310 area code. TROPIC THUNDER is a riot if you’re an agent at CAA. It’s high hilarity if you’re an MGM studio executive. It’ll have A-list Hollywood actors in stitches. If you subscribe to Variety, if you lunch at the Grill on the Alley, if you only go to industry screenings – this movie is for YOU.
Unfortunately, if you’re just a regular person who pays actual money to see movies you might be very disappointed. It’s not that there aren’t laughs in the movie. It’s just that most of them are not meant for you. They’re meant for Ben Stiller’s address list.
The real shame is that TROPIC THUNDER gets off to such a great start that you think you’re in for a really fun ride. The opening sequence is a spoof of movie trailers that is dead on. But then the real movie starts. Twenty minutes later you’re bored. You’ve seen fifty big explosions. You’ve seen the stars chew up every bit of scenery on the screen – and remember they’re in a huge jungle – and you realize (a) you’re no longer laughing, (b) you don’t give a shit about this story, and (c) you now hate Jack Black more than you hate terrorists.
Oh yes, it’s supposed to be a send-up of the movie industry. But it’s done in such a slap dash, cartoony, inside-joke wink-wink way that it rarely hits its target. For better Hollywood send-ups see THE PLAYER, THE BIG PICTURE, BOWFINGER, and I’m sure you can list six others. They understand what auteur Mr. Stiller doesn’t –
play the movie straight.
In TROPIC THUNDER, every actor knows he’s in a comedy. There’s more mugging than in a THREE’S COMPANY episode. And this is before enemy-of-comedy, Matthew McConaughey hits the screen.
All this film did was make me appreciate Amy Adams and her performance in ENCHANTED even more.
I just imagine Stiller and his cast watching dailies and convulsing with laughter. “You’re the funniest dude in Hollywood.” “No, man, you are.” “No, seriously, you’re incredible.” “Really. You’re brilliant.” “Well, you’re a genius.” “A thousand years from now people will be talking about you, bro.”
Meanwhile, for us, the general public, we’re the designated driver, taking home a bunch of idiots who are completely shit faced and not nearly as hysterical as they think they are.
I have no problem with TROPIC THUNDER being politically incorrect. I have no problem with the “retard” business. The point the self-appointed watchdog groups miss in their righteous indignation is that the filmmakers are skewering movie stars who take these “however-you- want-to- call-them challenged” roles as a means to win an Oscar.
Re the black face flap, the trouble there is that it’s one joke… played over… and over… and over… and over… and over… and over again. But in dailies, everyone’s sides must’ve been splitting. “I tell ya, you’re a genius.” “No, dude, it’s all you.”
But I do have a big problem with Stiller & Co. letting vanity and self indulgence compromise what should have been a rollicking comedy.
Thank God there was one actor who truly was funny. So much so that I'd love to write a comedy for him. I can't believe I'm going to call my agent and see if Tom Cruise is available.