Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Tropic Thunder

Tropic Thunder (Ben Stiller, 2008) [6]

Tropic Thunder certainly has a firm grasp on its targets. But can a movie that skewers big budget Hollywood event pictures have any venom when it's exactly the same type of film that it's meant to ridicule? Some could say that by making a big budget film full of explosions and exotic locales you can't bite the hand that feeds you but the truth is, no matter how Stiller can take shots at studios and actors, it's the same system that's been good and currently employs him. Yes the film is right on in its portrayal of its actors from the dim-bulb action star played by Stiller to the Jack Black and Robert Downey Jr. characters but these are pretty obvious targets. The film uses the characters and their situation for laughs but it never has the feeling of being mean or harshly critical, mostly because Stiller will have to work with people like this again. The funniest moments of the film are the ones that dig a little deeper at the whole system, from the "full retard" hypothesis and the faux trailers at the start of the film. The rest of the film is a fairly forgettable story with an ending that I can't decide if it's meant to be that fully over the top or not. It may be meant to be taken satirically but there's something in the execution that don't make it feel so. Downey and Tom Cruise have gotten a lot of attention for their performances but it's Stiller's character that is the most fully formed in terms of its ridicule and vain actorly excesses. It certainly gives off the most laughs. Cruise, just as he almost did in Magnolia, almost single-handily submarines a film by playing a profane Tom Cruise character, only this time he's bald, portly and hairy. If that's the best Tropic Thunder can do, it's not bad but let's not all forget it still is a product of the same system it wants to mock.

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