TROPIC THUNDER is a failed attempt to satirize Hollywood and its excesses. The film is funnier in premise than in execution and once the plot is in motion it sputters and falls flat.
A group of pampered Hollywood actors are dropped into the Vietnamese jungle to shoot a war film guerilla style. One is a big action star looking for redemption (Ben Stiller), another is a fart-centric comedian who also happens to be going through heroin withdrawls (Jack Black) and the other is a highly acclaimed method actor (Robert Downey Jr.) Of course things go wrong and they end up in trouble with real drug lords.
Whenever a film relies on celebrity cameos I’ve always found it to be a cheap thrill. You laugh when you see a star show up unexpectedly but then it stops being funny and becomes forgettable. It’s not a real joke or a real laugh. It’s reactionary and impulsive. TROPIC THUNDER carries this to an extreme and makes a bit of casting that ultimately ruins the film.
A few summers ago, Tom Cruise fired his publicist and hired his sister as a replacement. This proved to be not such a great idea as he humiliated himself on Oprah, lectured Matt Lauer on Scientology, got squirted in the face by a fan on the red carpet and danced awkwardly on BET. It looked like this:
TROPIC THUNDER has not one, but two scenes in which Tom Cruise dons a fat suit and dances to hip hop music. It comes across as sad and desperate. A once great star grasping at the last straw of fame in order to repair his reputation. The problem is that during these scenes, TROPIC THUNDER comes to a screeching halt so that Tom can show us what a good sport he is.
That’s a major flaw of the film. Isn’t a self-deprecating star cameo for the sole purpose of rejuvinating a career the very type of thing TROPIC THUNDER is supposed to be satirizing? Do we need two scenes of Tom dancing to show us that he can laugh at himself? In fact, Stiller is seemingly so impressed with the topical humor of Cruise dancing that he ends his movie with an extended scene of dancing. And what’s the point? It’s never going to be as funny as the real life moment of Cruise reving-the-motorcycle on BET. You’ve become what you despise, TROPIC THUNDER.
It’s about time Jack Black hang it up. He’s just obnoxious in this film. His heroin withdrawl shtick isn’t funny and serves no purpose other than to give him an excuse to make loud moaning noises. Stiller is the same Stiller is in every movie he’s ever been in. The only person to really stand out is (no surprise) Robert Downey Jr. who steals every scene he’s in. Jay Baruchel also does admirable things with a small role.
TROPIC THUNDER never rises above its funny premise and doesn’t utilize the talents of its all-star cast. There are funny moments but there’s no cohesion or consistent tone. It’s a sloppy, poorly written film that replaces true comedic writing with celebrity cameos. Very dissapointing considering the talent involved.