Cover, Tropic Thunder

I have to admit I had terribly low expectations for this move, just as I did when my then-sixteen year old daughter dragged me to see “George of the Jungle” yea these many years ago. I sat down to watch, grimly expecting my intelligence, taste and sense of humor to be insulted for two hours… but contrary to those low initial expectations, both “George” and “Tropic Thunder” turned out to be very, very funny movies.

The opening sequence to “Tropic Thunder” – seemingly a series of trailers for the sort of film that I avoid like the plague was hilarious, and all the more pointed for really, really looking like trailers for real films. Apparently it has taken quite a few watchers to realize these trailers were part of “Tropic Thunder” – the essential set-up for the main plot. Which says something about the current state of Hollywood, and sets the tone for the subsequent two hours of gleeful skewering of war movies like “Platoon” and “Apocalypse Now”, over-involved method actors who don’t drop character until the last commentary is completed on the DVD release, actors who play every damn part in a fat suit, fake Vietnam War vets and the memoirs they write, out-of-control movie spectaculars involving protracted and expensive location shoots and a whole range of directorial pathologies. That the director, Ben Stiller could induce a whole array of fairly well-known actors to go along with him in poking well-aimed fun at everything to do with their profession does argue that Hollywood as a whole has not entirely lost a sense of humor about itself.

The plot, such as it is, concerns a wildly expensive and over-budget war movie spectacular being shot on location with an all-star cast, a la “Apocalypse Now”. Lurching wildly out of control, the producer and moneybags (a profane, practically unrecognizable and differentially hirsute Tom Cruise) is about to pull the plug. The desperately overwhelmed director connives to drop his stars into a bit of reality – turning them loose in the jungle, and film them at a distance as they complete their impossible mission. Only a couple of things interfere with this – like the director himself getting blown up on an old landmine, and the actors (in full “Tour of Duty” regalia) encountering a jungle drug processing plant, and the wildly assorted thugs who control it … movie fans all.

Of the extras on the second disc, the best – and which is even funnier than the movie is the fake documentary “Rain of Madness” and “Dispatches from the Edge of Madness” by a comically pretentious and portentous documentary filmmaker on the set of the alleged original movie. You’ll never be able to watch a “Making of” feature on one of the entertainment channels again, without seriously cracking up.

“Tropic Thunder” is available at Amazon, and at other retail outlets.

Sgt. Mom is a free-lance writer and member of the Independent Authors Guild who lives in San Antonio and blogs at The Daily Brief. Her current book “To Truckee’s Trail” is available here. Her next books project, “The Adelsverein Trilogy” is being released in December, 2008. More about her books is at her website www.celiahayes.com.

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