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Monday, October 27, 2008

Tropic Thunder

***** Tropic Thunder. Action, comedy.

Directed by: Ben Stiller.
Starring: Ben Stiller, Robert Downey Jr., Jack Black, Brandon T. Jackson, Nick Nolte, Matthew McConaughey, Tom Cruise, Steve Coogan, Danny McBride

We watched this Friday night at the theater on post. Camden's been looking forward to it ever since he first heard about it--he's a huge Ben Stiller fan. He wasn't disappointed--it's now his favorite movie ever.

If you've seen the trailers (there's one here, if you haven't), you know that Tropic Thunder is about making a war movie that turns out not to be a movie after all. Well, sort of. Rookie director Damien Cockburn (Steve Coogan) is having trouble with his cast, and when an expensive explosion scene goes off without the cameras rolling, his movie is doomed. Until author Four Leaf Tayback (Nick Nolte) convinces him to take his 5 actors into the jungle to film realistically.

I'd expected the movie to mostly be about figuring out that what was happening to them wasn't actually a movie, but it was a lot more than that. "It's not a movie" is just the background. It's about movie making, acting, stereotypes, commercialism, and the relative importance of things. (TiVo turns out to be more important than you think!)

There's so much to love here. From the very beginning, with Alpa Chino's (Brandon T. Jackson) Booty Sweat commercial, and "trailers" for Tugg Speedman's (Ben Stiller), Kirk Lazarus's (Robert Downey Jr.), and Jeff Portnoy's (Jack Black) latest films (here's the trailer for Satan's Alley--I couldn't find good ones for the others), it's a movie within a movie, with actors playing actors playing roles. Click on all those links--they're hilarious. All the "actors" have websites.... well, except for the kid, Kevin Sandusky (Jay Baruchel)--he just has a MySpace page.

All right--that's more to do with the promotion than the movie, but Camden and I just spent a while playing around with the links, so I thought I should share them.

Matthew McConaughey is Rick Peck, Tugg Speedman's agent, and he spends nearly the entire film trying to get TiVo for Speedman--basically, to show how indispensible he is.

The big surprise was Tom Cruise as producer Les Grossman. Ruthless, obnoxious, cares about nothing but money, and prone to dancing.

My absolute favorite part of the movie was the cosmetically-black Kirk Lazarus, who's Australian, trading stereotypes with Alpa Chino, all while staying in character ("Man, I don't drop character 'till I done the DVD commentary."), but there were too many good parts to mention them all.

Another fabulous part was Lazarus and Speedman discussing Acting (with a capital "A"), and action actor Speedman trying to hold his own with serious actor Lazarus. And.... Argh. I'm so tempted to describe scene after scene and copy and paste a whole bunch of quotes from the IMDB. I won't. You can go read them yourself if you want.

All the "actors" had insecurities, faults, or quirks that affected them, particularly while trying to escape from the drug lord. They were all unique individuals, and their differences made sense with the way the characters were described--Lazarus gets caught up in roles, Portnoy has a drug problem, Speedman wants to be taken seriously as an actor, etc.

We'll be getting the DVD as soon as it's released. And watching over and over again until we can quote it verbatim, no doubt.

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This sound like a fun movie to watch. I'm going to Netflix it!

Thanks for the review!
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