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Tropic Thunder

Review by Sean Lynch

Tropic Thunder : Ben Stiller & Robert Downey Jr.

Tropic Thunder : Movie

Ben Stiller has been getting away with his star studded satires on Hollywood for over a decade now, thanks largely to the ridiculous budgets thrown at him by the MTV Movie Awards.

The skits have always been short, sharp, and hilarious highlights of a career which has recently started to take a dive into the mundane. But we always knew he was capable of more than Something About Mary IV : Mary Gets A Sex Change, and it seems like the time has finally arrived.

Tropic Thinder is the perfect comedy movie Ben Stiller has been threatening to make for years - and its well worth the wait.

If Oceans 11 served as a cinematic time capsule of the Who's Who of the respected A-List at the beginning of this decade, Tropic Thunder is it's Black Sheep cousin that boasts the most impressive assembly of comedic (and high profile) talent ever seen on screen at the one time.

Stiller, Jack Black and Robert Downey Jr (whose Night At The Museum,
Kung Fu Panda and Iron Man each grossed over $300M at the worldwide box office) lead an enormous ensemble cast in this truly epic action comedy about a group of self-absorbed actors who set out to make the most expensive war film ever made.

After ballooning costs forces studio boss Les Grossman (played by an unrecognisable Tom Cruise) to cancel the movie after only one day (the movie is 3 months behind schedule... due to one hell of an explosion), the frustrated director refuses to stop shooting and leads his cast into the jungles of South-East Asia where he plans to finish the film no matter what... or how real.

The sheer stupid enormity of the film (it's one of the rare cases where you can see where every cent of the budget was spent) makes up for any weak spots - and there really aren't many at all.

In fact, I would go as far to say it is one of the best comedies of the decade. Not in the same "Laugh-Per-Minute" realm of Superbad or Anchorman, but it must be commended for the sheer unrelenting joy that it provides.

From the countless cameos (I won't ruin them for you, because half the fun is seeing familiar faces just pop up), to the witty satire, the stupid joy of seeing cute Asian children brutally shooting and stabbing grown men, the Hollywood in-jokes (although, at times it might be a little to in-joke... in that unless you are getting paid $20M a movie yourself, the jokes might go over your head), to the spot-on mock trailers which precede the film.

Everything just seems to work perfectly.

What really stands out about Tropic Thunder is just that it's so refreshing to see such a well put together, unpredictable, genuinely funny and original comedy coming from these stars who are so often pidgeon holed into releasing such repetitive junk.

Even Cruise delivers a cuss-ridden performance which is outside of the box, with a take on the Hollywood studio big-men, giving us a character that is half "Weinstein" - half "Paramount Executives that fired him after M:I:3 bombed".

However, the success of the movie comes down to two people - Downey Jr and newcomer Brandon Soo Hoo.

RDJ is on fire at the moment (he's always been superb - but he's finally getting mainstream cred) and he owns every single frame that he appears on. The same can be said for youngster Soo Hoo who provides a good number of laughs as a drug lord.

It also helps RDJ is playing an Aussie - so there is an odd sense of pride and camaraderie Australian audiences are bound to feel any time Kirk Lazarus defends his country.

Explosions and cast aside, credit must also go to the films writer Justin Theroux (who most will remember as "the bad Irish guy from Charlies Angels 2") who continues on his merry way of mocking genre pieces (he has also done some fine work in The Ten and Wet Hot American Summer) with the utmost respect.

This is the Shaun of the Dead of the war movie genre. It achieves everything Pineapple Express wanted to do with Action/Comedy - and exceeds it tenfold.

Tropic Thunder is inspired absurdity on a truly grand scale, and can quite proudly be displayed as a footnote in history of the best the entertainment industry had to offer in the first decade of the new millennium.

4.5 out of 5

Tropic Thunder
Australian release: 21st August, 2008
Official Site: Tropic Thunder
Cast: Ben Stiller, Jack Black, Robert Downey Jr, Brandon T. Jackson
Director: Ben Stiller

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