Directed by Ben Stiller
In an effort to salvage an over budget and behind schedule production, a filmmaker comes up with the idea to film his cast guerrilla style but things go awry and they find themselves in genuine danger in this parody of pretentious Hollywood war movies and coddled actors.
This is a movie carried by the ridiculous characters. Without as absurd as they are, this movie would not work. Stiller could have played it safer but thankfully he did not. He goes after everybody. For example:
- Tugg Speedman (Ben Stiller) is a has been actor trying to revive his career by playing Four Leaf Tayback (Nick Nolte) who wrote the (fake) memoir on which the film within a film is based. He had attempted to branch out into more serious work such as a film called Simple Jack about a mentally challenged man that can talk to animals, but his efforts are all flops. His faux trailer is for his latest film Scorcher VI: Global Meltdown which is a parody of long running summer blockbusters.
- Jeff Portnoy (Jack Black) is a drug-addicted comedic actor well known for films containing toilet humor such as The Fatties which here is a parody of the Nutty Professor films starring Eddie Murphy. He is concerned his success is based on his farts and nothing else and took the part in Tropic Thunder to prove differently. Portnoy was absolutely hilarious and what Black did and what came out of his mouth bordered on him being almost in a separate film. The character was completely in his own universe because of how high he was all the time. Portnoy’s trailer is for his family comedy The Fatties: Fart 2 about a family (with each member played by Portnoy) that farts a lot.
- Kirk Lazarus (Robert Downey Jr.) is an Australian actor who is a multi-Academy Award winner who had his skin darkened in order to play the part of African American Staff Sergeant Lincoln Osiris. Being a method actor to the extreme, he will not break character until the commentary is recorded. His trailer at the beginning of this movie is Satan’s Alley about two gay 12th century monks. Somehow they convinced Tobey McGuire to cameo in this “trailer.” The Enigma song is what really sells it.
- Alpa Chino (Brandon T. Jackson) is a closeted homosexual rapper trying to get into acting portraying a soldier from the memoir named Motown. The payoff is during the course of the film when he mentions his feelings for someone named Lance and at the very end it turns out to be Lance Bass! I have serious respect for him having such a good sense of humor. Alpo Chino is hocking Booty Sweat energy drink and Bust-A-Nut bars.
- Kevin Sandusky (Jay Baruchel) is a novice actor for whom this is a big break and the only character taking the production of the film seriously and is playing a soldier named Brooklyn.
- I think the most surprising bit in all this is Tom Cruise. This is one of those comedies that has more in common with the zaniness of Airplane! or the Naked Gun films than it does with any other style of comedy. And the surprising part is that Tom Cruise killed it in his role of Les Grossman who is a not a very subtle parody of Harvey Weinstein. I would not have pictured him appearing in something like this or even being able to pull it off. He is drama or action but never anything like this.
Nothing was sacred in this movie. They took swipes at so many people and things beyond Weinstein. Stiller even takes a swipe at the real-life God’s Army guerrilla leaders Johnny and Luther Htoo with the character Tran (Brandon Soo Hoo) who is the 12-year-old leader of the Flaming Dragon gang. His group has a VCR and one cassette and are big fans of Tugg Speedman’s failed project Simple Jack which Speedman is forced to perform repeatedly for them when captured.
Rounding out the significant characters is Matthew McConaughey as Rick Peck who is not only Speedman’s agent but his insanely devoted best friend. Danny McBride is the film’s pyromaniac explosive expert
An assortment of others (besides those mentioned above) portray themselves including such people as: Tyra Banks, Maria Menounos, Martin Lawrence, Jason Bateman, Jennifer Love Hewitt, Alicia Silverstone, Sean Penn, and Jon Voight.
There is so much in this movie that I do not think would fly today and I’m not talking about just Robert Downey Jr. This movie is filled with a style of funny that you could not do now though I think Lazarus alone would make studio heads run for the hills these days. Satan’s Alley. Rick ‘Pecker’ Peck-that nickname and how he treated his own son. Speedman flinging that kid over the bridge. Portnoy mostly on a drug binge for the whole film in a film. There is something there to offend everybody.
What the movie This Is Spinal Tap is too heavy metal bands and their documentaries, Tropic Thunder is to war films and pretentious Hollywood. This is of the funniest movies I have seen in a long time. Why did I wait?! I laughed so much throughout this movie. If you do not at least crack a smile when watching this, you have no soul.