"Tropic Thunder." - DVD Review.

By Bob Zerull

3 1/2 Stars:

I don't know how or where to start with this. It really depends on how you watch the movie. On one hand this movie is a completely unfunny movie where every joke falls flat. On the other hand this movie is a hilarious parody of the film industry. What the characters say in this movie aren't funny. What is funny is that they are saying them.

Ben Stiller stars as Tugg Speedman, a Sylvester Stallone type action star that has passed his prime. In an attempt to win an Academy Award, Speedman plays Simple Jack, a person struggling with Down Syndrome. The movie is panned by critics as one of the worst movies ever. His newest movie is a return to the franchise that made him famous, "Scorcher VI" (sound familiar "Rocky Balboa," "Rambo"?)

Starring alongside Stiller is Robert Downey Jr. as Aussie actor Kirk Lazarus. He is a multi-Academy Award winner, the type of actor who is up for any challenge and never comes out of character until the movie is done shooting. Jack Black also stars as Jeff Portnoy, an over the top comedic actor much like himself or maybe a little more specifically, Eddie Murphy, only he's addicted to heroin. Rounding out the cast are Brandon T. Jackson as rapper Alpa Chino, Nick Nolte as Vietnam vet Four Leaf Tayback and huge group of cameos including Tom Cruise as the studio head Les Grossman (I won't spoil the rest of the cameos).

Tom Cruise's character Les Grossman's studio is making a movie based on the memoirs of a Vietnam vet (Nolte). The name of the movie they're making is "Tropic Thunder." Speedman, Lazarus and Portnoy are all starring in this movie. Speedman is playing the "Rambo" type lead. Lazarus has died his skin a darker color to portray an African American character.

After the actors' egos, specifically Speedman's, cause the production to go over budget, Grossman threatens to shut production down. If the production is shut down, Speedman's career will probably be over. In an effort to save this movie, the Vietnam Vet Tayback recommends to the director that he drop the actors into the real jungle and hide cameras in the trees. The director goes for this and from there all hell ensues.

Downey Jr. is tremendous in this movie. He plays an Australian actor dressing in black face for a movie. He's probably the funniest thing in this movie (maybe Tom Cruise is), mainly because I can see someone like Sean Penn, Russell Crowe or Johnny Depp doing what he's doing and saying what he's doing. This movie has come under a lot of fire because of the Simple Jack character that Stiller's character plays. There was nothing really funny about Simple Jack. What was funny is that I can see a real actor belittling the handicap by thinking if they dropped themselves down to their level they could win an Academy Award.

Stiller wrote, directed and starred in this movie and he did a great job, but he was probably the least funny in the movie. Jack Black was essentially parodying himself, Downey Jr. was parodying himself, but Stiller was parodying Stallone. This movie would have been even funnier if a Stallone or The Rock or any action star had played this role.

This movie isn't for everybody. This isn't a movie full of jokes. The jokes are really the characters and if you know that going in then I think you'll find this movie incredibly funny. If you're looking for jokes and great one liners then this movie will leave you disappointed. I recommend this movie nonetheless, because Downey Jr. and Cruise are so good and funny.


Bob Zerull is a frequent movie and concert goer who talks about his ventures to arenas and theaters more than any person should be allowed to do. Now, he puts them down on paper. Email him your thoughts at: bzerull19@gmail.com.

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