Saturday, February 21, 2009

Thunder Blunder

Tropic Thunder is a movie about a group of self-congratulatory assholes MADE by a group of self-congratulatory assholes. This alleged comedy has been nearly universally lauded by critics and audiences. Everyone seems to think it’s the funniest thing since a kick to the groin (which, by the way, is akin to the maturity level of this movie’s “humor”). Merely imitating, or imitating with a bit more raunch, is NOT satire. If you’re looking for a humorous skewering of the big-budget war movie, skip Tropic Thunder. I mean, skip it anyway, but see Hearts of Darkness: A Filmmaker’s Apocalypse, the documentary chronicling the making of Apocalypse Now. No, in all seriousness, Tropic Thunder is not the brilliant satire that everyone seems to think it is, and which IT thinks it is, and certainly its filmmakers and cast think it is. Ugh. Let me say this loud and clear: Tropic Thunder is NOT good, and it’s NOT funny.

Honestly, this movie isn’t worth much of my time, so I’m going to rip off the critical band-aid as quickly as possible. Tropic Thunder is about the making of the making of the making of a war movie, or something like that. At any given point, it’s various levels of real for random characters. It gets old really fast. This painfully unironic macho fest (no, this is not just because I’m some man-hating feminist) is the immature mind ejaculation of writers Etan Cohen and Justin Theroux and writer/director Ben Stiller. The predominantly male cast includes: Ben Stiller (who is actually pretty good), Jack Black, Brandon T. Jackson, Robert Downey, Jr., Jay Baruchel (he‘s so annoying that I wanted to smack him), Nick Nolte (redefining “grizzled” and reprising his mug shot, though not unfunny), Danny McBride, Steve Coogan (wasted and irritating as Damien Cockburn - get it? teehee), Bill Hader (always funny), Matthew McConaughey (Ben Stiller’s character’s agent, goes by “Pecker” - oh, how droll), and Tom Cruise, who I will not say one snide word about, because he rocks this movie in surprising and unrecognizable fashion as chunky, angry, crude studio head Les Grossman.

So, it’s not all bad. I’ll make some concessions. The movie LOOKS good. It looks like it cost a lot of money, so that equals good, right? Sorry, that was snarky. It does look good. And the selection of music is pretty rocking. It was mildly funny and even very funny sporadically. Tugg Speedman (Stiller’s character) and Simple Jack? Hilarious. Tom Cruise is a RIOT. He should have gotten the Oscar nomination if anyone from this movie was to get one, and even then, no one deserved to get one. The cast is decent, some much better than others (Stiller, Cruise…um, thought there would be more…I guess Downey, Jr. and Black), but there are definitely some talented comedians here. However, they know it, and it’s obvious. I could appreciate the concept. I got where they were trying to go with it. And it did work occasionally. The experience wasn’t a totally miserable one. There were fleeting moments of brilliance (SO fleeting, though), which made me even more disappointed because I saw that it had potential. Too bad Stiller and company (I’m looking at you, RDJ) couldn’t put their egos aside for the greater good. They just think they’re really cool.

And come on, really? An Oscar nomination for Robert Downey, Jr.? Like that guy needs his head inflated any more. Yes, he’s a great actor, and yes, he’s really darn good here, but this performance is ultimately nothing. It’s not memorable or special. It’s cheap and wrings the hell out of a joke (Kirk Lazarus is SO method…how method is he? He’s so method that…you get the idea…GAG) that isn’t very funny to begin with. The whole movie feels that way. Everything is drawn out to the brink of insanity - MY insanity for having to endure it. Also, Jack Black is so randomly used in this movie as a heroin addict. I laughed at his scenes more out of disbelief than anything else. If all that wasn’t enough, the movie is too long, the pace is often agonizingly slow (like that insufferable climax), the narrative is disjointed, it’s one of the most self-indulgent things I’ve ever seen, and oh yeah, it’s NOT FUNNY.

The movie is a totally self-serving project. It left me completely unsatisfied. Tropic Thunder is impotent. Sorry, fellas.

Rating: ** (out of 5)


Bill Treadway said...

Gene Siskel once said "I disagree with every word in this beautifully written volume".

I disagree with you about the movie (it made my 10 Best list for 2008), but your review is so well written and well argued.

You are a SUPERB writer and don't let anyone tell you otherwise!

matt said...

"immature mind ejaculation" is another bit of gloriously funny writing I won't soon forget. This is a film I laughed at mindlessly and then instantly forgot about. It certainly isn't the brilliant satire everyone says it is (if Stiller hated Hollywood so much, why is he doing Night at the Museum 2 and Meet the Fockers3?!). Tom Cruise and Simple Jack (not to mention the opening trailer with Downey Jr. and Tobey Maguire) were so funny they belonged in a better movie.

a cat of impossible colour said...

Wowza! Haven't seen this yet, but now I think I have to, if just to judge for myself. :)

María Del Rincón said...

I was about to watch it for an essay about metafiction, but didn't.