Saturday, 3 October 2009

Film Review: TROPIC THUNDER (2008)

Director: Ben Stiller
Running time: 112 mins (approx)
Certificate (UK): 15

Watched on Sky+ Saturday 3rd October 2009.


First of all, let me say for the record, I am not a great fan of Ben Stiller’s work. Maybe I’m not designed to ‘get’ his humour, or maybe I ‘get’ it but it’s just not funny (to me). Anyhow, this was recommended to me and so I thought I’d give it a go. The story revolves around the making of a Vietnam War movie based on a book called Tropic Thunder. The author, Four Leaf Tayback, and supposed survivor of the mission it’s based on, is on set as an advisor. The director, Damien Cockburn, is having trouble controlling a cast of pampered Hollywood stars and is persuaded by Four Leaf to take them into the jungle to ‘toughen them up’. Unfortunately, Damien is accidentally killed, leaving the actors in the jungle unaware that they are not alone.

The actors in this piece are: Tugg Speedman, an action hero star who is looking to get into more serious acting. Jeff Portnoy, a comedy actor with a drug habit. Kirk Lazarus, a serious Australian actor who has had his skin colour surgically changed to play the black sergeant of the unit. Alpa Chino, a young black actor whose endorsement work and hip-hop background make him very popular. Kevin Sandusky, the rookie of the unit, a young actor just starting out. So, here are our main protagonists who are armed with just blanks and alone in the jungle, believing they are being filmed and heading into the arms of a ruthless heroin smuggling gang. This is where the fun starts, and it’s also where I’ll leave the plot, not wishing to put too many spoilers in here.

As you can probably guess, as with most of Ben Stiller’s work, it’s a very character driven plot. Not that that’s a problem, I like a film that challenges me, that makes me have to think about it. The trouble I found with this film was that it seemed there were far too many Hollywood ‘in jokes’ for my liking. All of the characters seemed far too superficial, like they were just parodies of either themselves, or some other Hollywood star. Of course Ben Stiller took the leading role of Tugg Speedman, I thought Robert Downey Jr. was excellent as Kirk Lazarus, Jack Black was adequate as Jeff Portnoy. Honourable mentions go to Jay Baruchel as Kevin Sandusky, Brandon T. Jackson as Alpa Chino, Steve Coogan as Damien Cockburn and not forgetting Nick Nolte as Four Leaf Tayback. Finally, a very special mention for Tom Cruise in a brilliant cameo as studio executive Les Grossman. Over all, it was OK, it just isn’t my cup of tea really, some decent performances, but very few laughs.

My score: 6/10

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