Sunday, November 30, 2008

Tropic Thunder: Grade C

Tropic Thunder (2008)
Ben Stiller, Jack Black, Robert Downey, Jr., with appearances by Nick Nolte and Tom Cruise. Co-writer and Director Ben Stiller.

This satire of Vietnam war films takes a self-referential, postmodern approach, meaning that its own satire is part of the joke, making it also a satire of Hollywod filmmaking. A patrol of GIs is filming battle scenes (shot in Hawaii, which had to be expensive), but the actors are bickering and one multi-million dollar special effects explosion is ignited when the cameras are not even rolling. In desperation, the director drops the patrol into the jungle to see if they can straighten out their relationships while trying to survive. Somehow they are dropped straight into the Vietnam war and are attacked by guerrillas. But they think they are still making a movie and act accordingly. That goofy premise makes for some delicious inside-Hollywood laughs and some good parodies of well-known scenes from Rambo, Apocalypse Now, Platoon, Rescue Dawn, and others.

One of the funniest bits is between RDJ playing a tough, barking black sergeant, and a young, hip black soldier who is perplexed by his stereotypical phrases and attitudes. There is no real plot, just a series of gag scenes, so everything depends on the humor, which is inconsistent. It loses its satiric edge and degenerates into crude, easy laughs as the movie progresses, until finally it becomes flat and boring. Jack Black has his fans, but is too crude and hammy for me. Nolte does a great self-parody. Cruise comes across as creepy; the magic is gone from him. Directing is notably good, and the sets, props, costumes and production values are high quality, but after about 45 minutes, the movie has little content to keep you going.

1 comment:

  1. I completely agree with you on this one. One of the more over-rated films over the year.