Tropic ThunderBen Stiller has had an impressive directorial career (maybe not to the general critic, but to me). To this day Cable Guy remains one of my favorite movies of all time (and a memorable soundtrack as well) while Zoolander and Reality Bites have stood the test of time (and the test of critics as well). His latest film, Tropic Thunder, rumored to be the most expensive R-rated film ever, attacks Hollywood with guns blasting (literally) as a group of pampered actors making a war film find themselves in a real war zone. It’s an idea only Ben Stiller could execute, and it works (to varying degrees, depending on who you ask) with help from both its score – provided by comedic scorer Theodore Shapiro – and it’s eclectic soundtrack.

The soundtrack features a sampling of numerous musical tastes. From the techno-ish mix of Ben Gidsjoy’s “Ready Set Go” to the classic rock hit “Frankenstein” by The Edgar Winter Group to the always appropriate “War” by Edwin Starr, this is a soundtrack that truly has something for everyone. The underlying theme here seems to be fairly simple: upbeat, fast-paced jam music. Even the slower songs (Ten Years After’s “I’d Love to Change the World” and Dan Hill’s “Sometimes When We Touch”) manage to ease into this category, the former with it’s quick-picking guitar riffs, the latter simply by its tongue-in-cheek inclusion in a Ben Stiller soundtrack. Bookending the album are a couple of unique standouts: The Crystal Method’s “The Name of the Game (Big A** T.T. Remix)” and Brandon T. Jackson’s “I Love Tha P***y.” The Crystal Method’s track is a mind-blowing mix of beats and sound-bites from the film while Brandon T. Jackson performs his parody rap song under the guise of Alpa Chino – his character in the film. It’s a brilliant mashup of recent rap hits, mocking everything from “Soulja Boy” to “Wall to Wall.” This is the type of soundtrack that not only recalss moments from the film, but lets listeners laugh out loud just by listening.

The score is a different animal altogether. Though Tropic Thunder isTropic Thunder undoubtedly a comedy, composer Theodore Shapiro attacks the score music as if he were going for a genuine action/adventure film. There are pounding rhythms and shrill flute-like trills every now and then, along with soaring vocals and even some electronic riffs (such as the final third of “Don’t Judge Me” that starts to sound like a guitar band let loose in the jungle. Like the soundtrack, these songs are adrenaline-filled and most are under three minutes long, providing a quick change of pace. If it weren’t for the silly titles, tracks like “Panda Attack” and “Shadow Me, Pinocchio” could easily be included on a standard war film’s score. But maybe that’s not entirely true. While Shapiro’s score does have the air of explosives, it also has the slightest hint of sarcasm (don’t ask me how music can be sarcastic, just trust that it can). It’s as if Shapiro has taken the sounds that we expect – listen to the pounding drums and dramatic pauses in “Four-Leaf’s Plan” – and given them just far enough to give them a slight twist – why is there a rattlesnake-like sound towards the end of this song? and why are there so many percussives in “Enter the Dragons”? It’s a slight off-setting of standard action/adventure fare, but it’s enough to make this score stand out as effective yet entertaining. Together, played in mix on Itunes, these two albums make an ideal blend of pumped up energy and comedic satire.

Zach’s Ratings –
Soundtrack: A-    Score: A-
Perfect For: Action score fans or anyone looking for a eclectic (but quality) soundtrack mix
Stay Away if: You don’t think parody rap songs and Edgar Winter go well together
Buy this on Itunes: “I Love Tha P***y” by Brandon T. Jackson

To purchase the soundtrack for Tropic Thunder, visit Amazon
To purchase the score for Tropic Thunder, visit Amazon

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