‘Thunder’ Proves True

Katie Christiansen

Warning: Those without the ability to throw out their conscious and bust a gut over incredibly un-PC hilarity need not apply. For the rest of you, get ready to laugh until it hurts at the Hollywood skewering, racially blurring, unquestionably R-rated “Tropic Thunder.”

Ben Stiller and company take on Hollywood excess in the no-holds-barred satirical comedy that opened August 13th, and proved to be much more than just “that movie where Iron Man plays a black guy.” In fact, Tropic Thunder’s ability to laugh at itself helps it walk the narrow line between funny and offensive.

Stiller’s “Zoolander”-esque performance as a panda loving washed-up action star is eerily familiar in the currently sequel obsessed climate. Jack Black’s cocaine-addicted flatulence-famous comedian adds little substance, but lots of laughs, and Robert Downey Jr.’s performance as a beyond all reason method actor is piss-your-pants funny, even if you can’t understand what he’s saying half the time. But all three headliners are outdone by Tom Cruise’s foul-mouthed studio chief. In what has been billed as little more than a cameo, Cruise does nothing less than resurrect his currently Scientology saturated seemingly-tepid career.

The ensemble cast, including Matthew McConaughey as an aim-to-please-at-all-costs agent (unless of course a private jet of his very own is involved) and Nick Nolte as a more-than-meets-the-eye Vietnam veteran, provide lowbrow laughs of the highest caliber.

All of the actors benefit from Stiller’s insider knowledge and keen directorial sense, first shown in decidedly less critically acclaimed movies such as “The Cable Guy,” and the aforementioned “Zoolander.” As an actor he plays an idiot, but as a director, the audience benefits from his comedic genius.

The jack-of-all-trades Stiller also co-wrote the movie about the movie within a movie (got all that?) with fellow actor Justin Theroux and screenwriter Etan Cohen.

No topic is safe from Stiller’s lens with everything from addiction to mental retardation, homosexuality, and adoption being lampooned. But what makes “Tropic Thunder” truly work is its self-ridicule, because in a very real sense, they are making fun of themselves.

How appropriate that a major-studio financed, star filled film makes fun of? well, major-studio financed, star filled films, but instead of the cheap tricks employed by lesser satires such as “Epic Movie,” “Tropic Thunder” takes itself just seriously enough while still providing non stop laughs.

“Tropic Thunder” is a movie for anyone who’s spent even five minutes on TMZ, contemplated Britney’s sanity, followed a celebrity’s adventures in rehab, or ever asked “Rambo 4, really?” In fact, even if Tinseltown and its over the top inhabitants hasn’t the slightest effect on you, Downey Jr.’s rendition of “The Jeffersons” theme song and Cruise’s dance moves are worth the cost of admission.