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Tropic Thunder is crude, campy, over the top absurdity. But never before have I laughed so hard at absolute stupidity. This film will offend pretty much everyone at some point, but you will be so busy cracking up that just won’t care. I am not sure who to blame for the foulness and who to applaud for making it so dang humorous. First time writer Justin Theroux joins writer/director/actor Ben Stiller to pen something that only full time actors could dream up. Maybe that is the beauty of the comedy; having actors make fun of themselves.

The story is nothing ingenious. It is a movie within a movie as five pampered actors are taken into the deepest part of the Vietnam jungle to shoot a war film. When they get tangled up with drug smugglers they think it is all part of the plot and do not realize they are in great danger. Once they figure out their predicament they must step outside their celebrity and pull together. The genius of the film is the acting by each individual star. Ben Stiller, Jack Black, Robert Downey JR., Jay Baruchel, and Brandon T. Jackson each deliver perfect comedic performances. I liken it to seasoned musicians who come together to create amazing music. Granted the humor will not be to everyone’s taste but these pros make their characters sing. You can scoff at the content but you can’t deny the brilliance of the delivery.

Though Ben Stiller is the star of the film, Robert Downey Jr. steals every moment as an Australian Academy Award winning actor who goes through a cosmetic procedure in order to play a black man in the movie they are filming. Downey is phenomenal and I am sure the real Oscars are never given out to actors in a film of this nature, but I would love to see it happen. At times I would have to focus intently just to convince myself it was RDJ. The transformation is that spot on. Jack Black too is surprising in the way he changes his character within the movie. They are all in theory playing characters who are playing characters. This had to be hard but they each make it seem effortless and the comedy never suffers. Plus, there is a must see performance in this film by a certain, surprise actor that will have you in tears.

Another thing that elevated this above the normal mindless comedy is the effort Stiller and crew made in their approach to the writing and directing. There would be scenes that were totally predictable. You knew exactly what would happen and could second guess the funny element before it occurred. And what you expected happened. But they never failed to add something that you didn’t expect that took the scene to new heights of humor. They did not settle for the norm or sell out. They knew what we expected and so they threw us a curve ball for good measure. Giving a totally predictable scene added surprise.

Tropic Thunder is rated R for pervasive language including sexual references, violent content and drug material. This baby is at most times rude and raunchy. They take the language and conversations of normal Vietnam movies and escalate it. Five guys in the jungle talk a certain way. So if you are not comfortable with the F word and the discussion of sexual preference and persuasions in the content of comedy then you are going to be uncomfortable throughout. Granted I hate gratuitous elements of any type, but I felt like they were making fun of the rudeness and not taking it serious. For some reason this made it more acceptable. But, regardless, be aware it is there and in full force. You have been warned. I was in the screening with 60 year old women who were laughing at things that I thought would put them in shock. But I feel like they caught the rhythm of the film and just went with it. Which you totally have to do. If you can’t, this is not the film for you. I give Tropic Thunder 4 out of 5 panda’s. It made me laugh harder than any film in a long time.

“Matt is a member of the North Texas Film Critics Association (NTFCA) and hosts a daily online talk show along with a weekend radio feature, The Mungles on Movies, with his wife Cindy. For additional reviews, interview clips and great DVD giveaways, visit the website www.mungleshow.com”

Review copyright 2008 Mungleshow Productions. Used by Permission.

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