Wednesday, August 20, 2008



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.


rob! said...

"I can't believe I'm going to call my agent and see if Tom Cruise is available."

he is, ken, if you're willing to, well, make a few changes in terms of your religious beliefs.

what are your feelings re: alien overlords?

Anonymous said...

Gosh, I thought I was the only one who thought Stiller and Friends were a tad self-indulgent.

Stiller is a notorious control freak when it comes (A caveat here: he's fired me as a writer) to his films, and this is the result when somebody else isn't there to say, "No."

Like all true great comic actors (okay Ben is great, but I'm trying to make a point--gimme a break), Stiller needs to be reigned in in order to give his best performance. Restraint is a good thing.

Anonymous said...

Fortunately, I ALREADY hate Jack Black more than terrorists, so I've just saved myself $10.

A few years ago I saw Ben Stiller browsing through DVDs in the Virgin Megastore that used to be at Sunset & Crescent Heights. He was trying to avoid being recognized and thus was being the most restrained I've ever seen him.

But then, I've seen very little of Ben's work, as I snapped to the wisdom of avoiding him about 7 or 8 years ago.

And KING KONG is the only Jack Black performance I've endured since MARS ATTACKS. (Where Tim Burton had the kindness to vaporize him early on.) I wondered at first why Peter Jackson cast Black in KK, and then I realized; he needed an actor beside whom the giant ape would seem restrained.

Are you sure you want to work with Tom Cruise? Think male Teri Hatcher with a god-complex.

Anonymous said...

I enjoyed Tropic Thunder, though I can't say I disagree with anything specific you said here. I'm definitely not in the industry, so I'm sure there were some inside jokes I didn't get.

I do think that the movie wouldn't work at all if the actors weren't hamming it up so much. If the actors played it straight, there is no way we could believe they somehow made it through the ordeal unscathed. Not one of them got shot somehow, when they were firing blanks in a stand-around-in-the-forest gun fight. But they play everything so over-the-top that you don't even bother to stop and wonder why they are immune to bullets.

Anonymous said...

Totally agree. It was amusing, but for two days I couldn't put my finger on why it wasn't funnier. It was over the top, sure, but that was expected. Some pretty big hams doing some major hamming. It was Stiller's "Hot Fuzz", but a bit much. And something was missing. Then last night I saw a farce of a play about a group of performers scheming and backstabbing to get a job. Okay it took place in the 1700s in Germany and the performers were all composers and musicians ("Bach at Leipzig") but it was freakin' hi-larious. The characters, the energy, the humor, the farcical staging of entrances and exits, the repeated jokes. Briliant (saw it at Shakeseare Santa Cruz). Why was that so much funnier than TT? Depth, maybe. Under the silly plot twists and corny jokes it was also (primarily, really) a play about ideas - art and philosophy and religion and their places in society and history and civilization. You leave the show feeling satisfied and spent. Leaving Tropic Thunder? Not so much. Only thing I've liked Cruise in other than "Collateral", but beyond that it was white bread toast with chocolate spread. I guess I need a little more fiber in my artistic meals.

Anonymous said...

"enemy-of-comedy, Matthew McConaughey" = Genius.

Although, you might have just said, "enemy-of-America."

Anonymous said...

"Although, you might have just said, 'enemy-of-America.' "

That's a bit over-the-top. Last time I looked, 9-11 wasn't caused by a shirtless, stoned surfer. I can see how he's a lousy-if-decorative excuse for a comic actor, but America has real enemies; two of them have been running the executive branch of our government for 7 and a half years. They've destroyed the economy, raped the evironment, and killed people all over the world. All Matt has done is spoil a few movies that probablty wouldn't have been much better with someone else in them either. They were, after all, made by people who cast McConaughey.

Anonymous said...

Sorry to labour the point on such a fun blog (Mr. Levine sir) but when you say "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", don't you think that the rest of us ordinary mortals might miss that point too, indignant or not? Especially as the satire is, as you say, so hamfisted. If it isn't clear that the use of a cruel pejorative is being skewered, then it's being endorsed in the culture. I don't know if Chris Lilley's 'Summer Heights High' has reached the US yet, but the way a main character (Mr. G) interacts with a Down's kid - for a large part of the series - is a completely spot on skewering of most people's attitude to disability (including self).

By Ken Levine said...

Just saying...

I don't disagree with you. And one of the failings of the movie was that the jokes were so inside audiences didn't get them. But even if you didn't get the specifics, it was still very clear that the point was not to make fun of people with disabilities. Ferrelly Brothers movies do that repeatedly and do it for laughs. Even if you don't get the specific references I still feel you can see the difference.

And again, I'm not defending TT, I'm just saying these watchdog groups hear a buzz word or see a clip out of context and immediately spring to action.

Dave said...

It's like d. mcewan is my twin! Between the loathesome Jack Black, Seth Rogen, and Jonah Hill, what room is left for actual comic actors anymore?

What I will say about Black, though, is that he's not good in "King Kong," but as a surrogate for Jackson, he's dead on.

That said, anyone who had to compete with Robert Armstrong's performance (which I like to think of as the greatest -- and best -- bad performance in the history of cinema) was going to come out a loser. And don't get me wrong; I adore Armstrong in that picture.

Unknown said...

Tom Cruise simply managed to get the insane glow out of his eyes.

I will never EVER be able to get the "Let's clean this place up" bit on YouTube out of my mind. Cruise is dead for me. Forever.

Anonymous said...

Perhaps Cruise summed up some effort because he wasn't acting, but doing a caricature of someone he really was pissed off at in the industry, etc.. and in a short sequence, that's enough. If it had to go the length, he'd sooner or later add his extra b.s. in and pump it up and so on.

Which in a way is something similar with Stiller and the whole industry he helped build - it's at BEST, ensemble acting. Never could one of the actors be trusted to carry a whole film on their shoulders alone. So it's recipe work, how much to add, what to leave off, and so on, and that really belongs in the end to the director, to say... NO.

As for cinema as a set of insider-jokes, winking at the upcoming punchline, double-taking, mugging to telegraph the joke that comes... god since Airplane that has been apparently a winning formula. Why - because it was considered funny to bring it from the domain where it belonged (television) onto the "grand" cinema screen. That jokes also over, long ago.

And as for actors going for the "challenged" sides to get their Oscar, you are right Ken, the send-up is there. Just, why not doing it somehow in the era we live in, rather than sub-1950s high-school, would have shown the "art" of the comedy we also know exists today.

Gervais in "Extras" built whole sub-plots around these issues, and played it through speaking as a character who would be exactly as a rather unreflective actor in the industry. But he prepared it in the scripting, and his character put his foot in his mouth was part of the storyline, he is always getting in trouble (or his actress friend) from saying such sometimes vial things without realizing it, but the point was, is it "him" or his "education" and therefore, we have to see what he does when he realizes he just keeps saying crap to someone's face. It took the idea of including various characters not to moralize or to moronize but because that's how it is in society, and he was playing it real, such that it was hard to identify with him - although the premise of "Extras" depends on it.

Just sayin. If HBO can do it as well, one realizes how "Tropic Thunder" is too little, too late, bloated, and so are most of those "comedians" there. Go back to TV Stiller.

Anonymous said...

"Dave said...
It's like d. mcewan is my twin!"

Dad told me he drowned you. Actually, the comment ran thusly:

Mother of a childhood friend of mine to my dad re me: "Aren't you glad he wasn't twins?"

My dad: "He was. We drowned the wrong one."

What truely bugs be about Jack Black is, God damn it, he was a good actor. In his early film roles, such as in BOB ROBERTS, and even in MARS ATTACKS (Whatever one thinks of the film as a whole, or as a hole.) he was excellent. Somewhere around HIGH FEDELITY he morphed into a high-instensity asshole madly in love with his own cleverness, and agressively obnoxious. Meanwhile, the fine actor he had the potential to be was lost.

I haven't actually seen any of Seth Rogan's films, but I enjoy his appearances on talk shows. I very much enjoyed, for instance, his recent appeance on THE DAILY SHOW. I suspect I would enjoy smoking a joint with him. And somehow, he even has a sort of off-kilter sexiness. Not to the point I could believe that a high-maintenance, self-involved, ice princess like Katehrine Heigl could ever believably be drunk enough to screw him. But I could might if the right circumstances arose. (I've always been suseptible to the "Bear" type. I'll bet I'm seeming less like your twin here, no?)

Ben Stiller I just can't connect with at all. Great pecs, but that's not enough to make me put up with the rest of him.

I actually have no idea who Jonah Hill is. How out of it am I? I've probably seen him and not absorbed him into memory.

I actually thought Black was okay (but only ok) in KK. I do not see him as a dead-on surrogate for Jackson in that film. He bore a slight physical resemblence to the younger, butterball Jackson, but Black's Carl Denham was a user, a con man, and an ineffective filmmaker. Jackson displayed organizational abilities that Eisenhower would have envied during WWII making the LORD OF THE RINGS movies, and is nothing if not a very effective filmmaker. Also, I've met Peter Jackson, and he's personable, laid-back, and not at all obnoxious.

I do understand what you mean about Robert Armstrong's performance in the original KK. I was reminded of Pauline Kael's comment about MY LITTLE CHICKADEE: "A classic among bad movies." It's the second-best performance in the original KK, the best being Kong's performance.

Fay Wray, charming as she was, made of Ann Darrow a rather annoying screamer. Unlike Watts in the Jackson film, and even Jessica Lange in the reprehensible 1976 version, Wray's Ann never sees past her terror to realize the depth of Kong's absurd love for her. The great irony of Kong's love for Ann in the original isn't that the size differnce makes their passion impossible; it's that she really isn't good enough for him.

Anonymous said...

I think I mentioned the other day that I was offended I wasn't offended enough, and I think I now know why. I, too, was bored and didn't give a shit after they blew up the director. That's where it started to falter and eventually wind down for me. Thank you for echoing what I thought was only in my head. (No, not the homicidal voices this time, Ken.)


Ollie said...

Because I know how funny all of those actors can be in their prime, I was disappointed. There were a few good laughs, but the sum seemed to be less than the parts.

Could anybody else hear what Robert Downey Jr. was saying? (or am I not cultured enough...yikes)

Doktor Frank Doe said...

Stiller MUST be producing this piece of crap. I haven't gone to look, nor do I care, yawnnnnnn. Why this moron keeps winding up in movie after movie after movie is beyond me. The last and maybe only thing he did worth a rat's ass was "Meet the Parents", since then it's been character after character a mere one shade different than the one that proceeded it. This is simply because he can't act and the same shtick is no longer funny, it quit being funny about nine movies ago.

His buddy Owen Wilson is the other bookend to this same question, WHY? The only movie I really enjoyed with Wilson in it was "The Big Bounce" and that might only be because the rest of the cast was so damned great, or was it only because of Sara Foster? Hmmmm I'm going to have to rerun it to see.

Anonymous said...

I love Robert Downey Jr so much that I'd watch him read the phone book. Give that man some awards for single-handedly making me watch a comic book movie and a male-action comedy movie all in one summer.

I enjoyed Tropic Thunder as did my husband who isn't nearly as obsessed with Hollywood as I am.

But I always think it's funny when Stiller makes fun of egomaniacs in Hollywood since I've heard rumors from those who worked with him that he's the biggest egomaniac there is. I'm pretty sure he wasn't acting much when he played a version of himself as the blowhard director in Extras.

Anonymous said...


I'm here to tell you that re: Stiller, "Egomaniac" would be the mild term I'd apply.
Absolute total control freak, without a sense of humor save his own. He's no pleasure to work for--and it's for NOT with--unless you're part of his inner circle. He makes working with Barbra Streisand a day at the beach. And that's saying something.

Anonymous said...

i guess i need to see bowfinger again because i just didn't see the funny.

Emily Blake said...

I thought it was hilarious, but I have the maturity level of a 12 year old so I may not be the best judge. Plus all I really need to make myself happy is a couple of explosions and an evil panda.

As for that comment about Matthew McConaughey - well that's kind of hypocritical, don't you think? You say that everybody was mugging and aware they were in a comedy and that's a bad thing - but McConaughey was the only actor who wasn't. He played the whole film 100% straight.

I normally don't like him much, but I appreciated that he played the role straight on where he's usually so damn goofy.

Anonymous said...

Sorry to disagree, but I thought it was hilarious. My friends and I laughed all the way through and we agreed we hadn't laughed at any movie so much in years. I don't think the jokes were too insider. Then again I went to film school for two years but didn't go into the industry.

I really liked it and I'd see it again. However, I also love Bad Santa. 'Nuf said.

Anonymous said...

I hated this movie.

I went to a screening all pumped up to see it based on the review tidbits I'd seen and I hated it.

I laughed during the first two minutes and not again until minute 100 (Jack Black, tied up and a desperate man, has one funny line).

Ben Stiller is such a puppy dog, such a introspective, nebbishy kind guy, in the some ways the most annoying parts of Jack Lemmon, he is totally unconvincing as an action hero ( yeah, I know--go explain Nicholas Cage). If you don't buy the premise, you don't buy the bit.

They should have cast Vin Diesel as gym-dwelling, in-love-with-himself-and-his-muscles entouraged star who can't function in the real world and had him play for comedy. That would have been funny.

And is Tom Cruise supposed to be Harvey Weinstein, Scot Rudin or Jon Dolgen?

God, I hated this movie.

Anonymous said...

I'm not sure there's such a thing as an "inside joke" about Hollywood anymore. Half of television programming, half of print, and half of the Internet are devoted to keeping everyone appraised of everything that happens in there in minute detail. My mother knows who Les Moonves is, for God's sake.

For me, there was nothing more unbearable than that group of idiots doing the Beatles scene from "Walk Hard." Talk about a bunch of hacks digging their own brilliance while having nothing to say.

Anonymous said...

Jack Black's shtick can be too much if there's nothing else going on, but he was great in School of Rock, a role which admittedly was tailored to his most palatable strengths. And after some initial misgivings, I thought he was quite good in Tropic Thunder, though the role had its limitations.

FWIW, I think Rogen and Hill are hilarious, though overexposure is always a danger with comic actors.

Big Guy said...

I'm from flyover country and I laughed out loud through the whole movie. I thought the action adventure plot line with the drug lords took away from the satire to some degree. While I think it did on some level serve the satire, it could have been handled more effectively. I agree with lizabeth regarding Robert Downey, Jr. He's magic. I totally agree with Ken about the context of the remarks that some found offensive. BTW, thanks so much to you, Ken, and the folks who post comments. Your insights and experiences are so insightful. And hilarious. Even though I basically disagree with most everyone's opinion on this movie I respect the perspective of the pro's who write here.

me said...

People have a frequent misconception that because you're funny in one medium, you're funny in all media. Ben Stiller was great on "The Ben Stiller," show where he was doing very short sketches, where the fake trailers were the best part. I have never found any of his movies funny. The same could be said for the "Strangers with Candy" crowd.

Anonymous said...

The number of movies and TV shows being made about the entertainment industry these days is ridiculous. It's reflective not only of Hollywood narcissism, but a startling lack of creativity. Even movies that are actually about something else need to wedge in some sort of Hollywood connection (Knocked Up, Forgetting Sarah Marshall). Apparently, these people must have no "real life" to draw from.

I'm under 40, but allow me a curmudgeonly moment: The two best movies ever made about Hollywood: Singing in the Rain and Sunset Boulevard. Everything else seems a little bit irrelevant.

Anonymous said...

This is the first movie I've seen at the multiplex this year that was under two hours. I had actually started to think that Loews had reversed it's policy of showing 800 trailers and commercials before the movie. But it just turns out that they still do, unless the movie is two and a half hours long. So after about the 700th preview, people are groaning and shouting "C'mon!" (Loews claims they've done studies saying that audiences like all the previews, so it must have just been a weird audience, right?) Anyway, the audience was so worn out by the previews that they were still groaning and booing when the fake ones started up. That was the funniest part of the movie for me.

Anonymous said...

Grant, the three spoof movie trailers at the beginning of TT were the only ones we saw, so at first I thought there were for really bad movies and products till the cameral rested on Ben Stiller with babies making fun of, of all people, Vin Deisel as the marine nanny. Hee. And the only offensive part of this whole movie was the rap commercial selling booty sweat with fat asses jiggling in my face making me want to vomit. After that... nada. Sad. In hindsight, I guess that's where the movie lost me. :-\

I liked Jack Black in this ensamble. I would hate him on his own. I refuse to watch School of Rock even if one of our venders DID give us a FREE copy for our large orders. Fuck that shit! I have better things to do with my time, like finally getting around to scubbing the toilet or sorting my husbands holey underwear and holey socks.

I loved Bowfinger. I thought I was the only one who appreciated that industry spoof, Ken. Really, even the husband loved it, but no one else I know liked it. Talk about an actor who can't be reigned in. Steve Martin is the king of this type of comedy! Albeit, he can act and has very real comedic skillz that span over tv, movies AND books. Stiller cannot claim the same. My husband I also loved 3/4 of Strangers With Candy till it became too long and too tendious to endure to the end. Love me some Jeri!!


Anonymous said...

" said...
I have never found any of his movies funny. The same could be said for the 'Strangers with Candy' crowd."

I was with you until that last sentence. Amy Sedaris is a goddess who can do no wrong. I found the feature-film version of STRANGERS WITH CANDY hilarious. (And it doesn't hurt that in her "STRANGERS WITH CANDY look, Amy becomes a dead ringer for my high school drama teacher, whom I loved and love still.)

"Anonymous said: The two best movies ever made about Hollywood: Singing in the Rain and Sunset Boulevard."

Well, you're just plain right. And look at their deeper connection: SINGING IN THE RAIN is about the moment movies started to talk (And sing), which was what ended Norma Desmond's career. As Gene Kelly was splashing about the sidewalks, singing and dancing in joy, Max was drivng Norma home from Paramount for the last time, as Norma sat in the back seat of her limo, sinking down into her leopard-skin upholstery, into depression and the beginings of madness.

Good times.

Tallulah Morehead said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Tallulah Morehead said...

SUNSET BOULEVARD? Or as I call it, SUNSET BULL-OF-TARD (Please don't picket me! If you picket, it won't heal.) That libellous trash? Feh!

From my award-adjacent autobiography MY LUSH LIFE:

Cinematic genius Billy Wilder called up one day and asked if he could come over in conjunction with a movie he was preparing. Like any sensible actress, I jumped at the chance to work with this brilliant director. But when he arrived at Morehead Heights, it seemed he wanted to talk about anything but his next movie, whatever it was. Frankly, it was almost impossible to tell what the hell he was talking about. His accent was so thick I could only guess at what he was saying. He seemed content to listen to me babble on about my life, much as I’m doing now, while he sat and listened intently, taking notes.

The next day he came back and again, just sat and listened to me talk about my life and adventures. I showed him about Morehead Heights and he took snapshots of every room.

This went on day after day for two weeks. Finally he announced, through the translator I’d asked him to bring, that he was through.

“When do I report to the studio?” I asked.

“You don’t.” Mr. Wilder’s translator replied.

“But, aren’t you using me in your new film?”

“In a manner of speaking. Would it be all right if I brought Gloria Swanson over with me one afternoon?”

“Homely little Gloria? Whatever for?”

“To study you. She’s starring in my new film.”

“Gloria Swanson, that repulsive elderly has-been, is starring in your new movie? I thought I was your new star.”

“No, no, no, no, no, no.” Mr Wilder replied.

“All right,” I said, “Though I think one ‘No’ would have sufficed.”

“You won’t be in the movie directly,” he cryptically answered, “But your influence will fill the picture.”

“That doesn’t buy the kitty any vodka, darling.”

I eventually saw Mr. Wilder’s bizarre exercise in star-bashing and I’ll be damned if I can see what influence I may have had on that awful bore. The only entertaining part of the picture was beautiful Billy Holden swimming.

Cheers darlings

Anonymous said...

>>The two best movies ever made about Hollywood: Singing in the Rain and Sunset Boulevard. Everything else seems a little bit irrelevant.<<

The one thing we tend to forget after being "inside" for a while (struggling to get inside might be a better term) is that the audience doesn't give a rat's ass if a movie about H-wood is "relevant" to anything.

The audience I saw Tropic Thunder with laughed through most of the movie.

The audience. Laughed.

No one hung around afterward and said, "Hey, are there any Hollywood writers who don't like Stiller/Black/Whoever to tell me if this was funny?"

It has been said that the great thing about Spielberg is that he is first and foremost an audience member. Meaning he gets what the audience wants, what they feel during certain moments, what they expect from a movie. He unabashedly caters to this.

Does this make him a "sellout" by struggling writer standards? Probably. But he lives in a $60 million dollar house and I don't. So maybe I have something to learn there?

Quite often what the audience expects is not nearly what we think they *should* expect from a movie. Especially a comedy. (The current crop of Spoof movies makes me ill, but somebody's buying tickets.)

Stiller keeps making movies for the same reason Joss Whedon keeps making movies/TV shows.

He has a fan base. And they're pretty loyal. They think Stiller is a funny motherfucker. And they pay enough to see his movies that studios continue to take the risk of producing his projects.

Ditto Jack Black. (Rabid fanbase equals studio financing.)

Lots of people who write "smart" comedy might think Family Guy is nothing but juvenile fart comedy that doesn't even bother to string together a proper story.

But it sold so many DVD's that the network had to put it back on the air after cancelling the show completely. And it made Seth McFarlane richer than any human has a right to be.

That's because there is an audience who LOVES it.

Audience first.

Personally, I saw moments in Tropic Thunder that were lifted from other movies and I saw quite a few telegraphed jokes. But damned if the audience didn't laugh.

And buy tickets.

Mike E

estiv said...

The great irony of Kong's love for Ann in the original isn't that the size differnce makes their passion impossible; it's that she really isn't good enough for him.

d-mc, that's the most perceptive bit of film crit I've seen in awhile.

goodman.dl said...

I think it's unfair to compare this movie to "The Player" because it is aimed much, much lower. It's an action movie spoof, using the film-withing-a-film as a conceit - rather than a real, full Hollywood Satire.

I find some irony in the review and comments -- that this movie was too "inside hollywood" for the regular guy to appreciate it. And yet while the TV/Movie writers (who are more 'industry insider' than I'll ever be) hate it, the audience I was with loved it.

Maybe it was for the 310 -- but it played just fine here in the 301.

Jess Kiley said...

Just remember, anything you write for Tom Cruise must be an exact fit for Angelina Jolie as well. That's simply how it works these days.

Dr. Leo Marvin said...

What ever became of Kevin Bacon's girlfriend from The Big Picture? I thought she was much hotter than Terri Hatcher (an opinion I'm sure I shared with no one).

Anonymous said...

So, I take it you didn't like the movie?

Cezar said...

Hey Ken,

I avoided your review as I hate walking in bias (positive or negative) and harbouring an opinion regarding buzz rather than the film. As with Enchanted, you're spot on with this review.

I've been waiting for a non-Apatow comedy for a couple of years so I was really disappointed this had the same long-winded problems as Apatow comedies, too much improvising, too little story.

Unknown said...

I liked it. But I am a writer with a moderate-to-intense obsession with Hollywood, so I am biased. What really took me out of the whole plot was the ending: I didn't get why Tugg Speedman won an Oscar (TM) For what? Did they use the footage from the jungle-cams? Ack. Someome should probably explain it to me. Yes, I am a writer. (Hanging head in shame).

Anonymous said...

I don't understand the critique that it's too inside. What do you think is going over people's heads? Movie stars can be self-obsessed and out of touch with the world? A big corporate head that only cares about the bottom line? The fact that an audience doesn't know what a Key Grip does doesn't make it hard to understand the concept of big boss ordering someone towards the bottom of the totem pole to punch the star. Saying that this movie was aimed only at Stiller's friends and can't be fully appreciated in the flyovers is like saying that Dr. Strangelove can only be fully appreciated by high ranking military officials (note: I make not claims about the relative quality of these two films).

Anonymous said...

I wasn't tempted to see TT and your review only seals my inclinations. For the last two decades or so, the basic structure of comedy seems to elude these so-called comedians.

(a bit hubrisitc of me to lecture about comedy on a big league comedy writer's blog. sorry)

Comedy requires contrast. There has to be a "straight man". Literally, or in the setting or in the situation. Costello needs Abbott. The Marx Bros. need the pompous hotel staff to run circles around. Fraiser supplies his own pompousity and then supplying his own pratfall.

Fleshing out the details and dialogue and all is where the art and skill comes in. But without that contrast, the comedy becomes a never-ending pie fight. The mess and fun is amusing for a little while, but then it just gets REALLY TEDIOUS.

Too many comedies of recent vintage are never-ending pie fights, trying desperately to include different flavour of pies and then have some of the pie fighters cut farts and then pie fight naked and...tedious

Anonymous said...

Farts and naked pie fights? That's one I'd go see.

JewlsDeluxe said...

D. McEwan,

I read Mr. Levine's blog everyday because I enjoy his posts and find him entertaining. I would like to add that I enjoy your comments as well. Your writing is sharp, witty, and, as evidenced tonight, laugh out loud funny. Thank you, and thank you to Mr. Levine. I will continue to tell friends about this blog, as it is one of my favorites.