Similar to Grindhouse, Tropic Thunder (107 minutes) teases the audience with a series of trailers for movies that will never actually be made. The rest of the movie is a downhill ride compared to the satirical sophistication offered by the fakes, including a hilarious send up of Brokeback Mountain called Satan’s Alley and a spoof of Eddie Murphy’s Nutty Professor franchise, called The Fatties: Fart Two. Given the long gestation of the project (Stiller began the project in 1987), the material wears surprisingly well. Anyone who has enjoyed a big budget war movie will find something to laugh at, not the least of which was the spot on division of the leads into the archetypal war movie soldiers (the intellectual, the angry guy, the incompetent leader). Fans of Ben Stiller, Jack Black and Robert Downey Jr. will especially enjoy seeing their favorites reveal some possible real-life insecurity in the way they translate the characters from script to screen.
    {mosimage}Following the opening trailer parodies and commercials for Booty Sweat (real product), the film opens on location in Vietnam, where first-time director Damien Cockburn (Alfred Molina look-alike Steve Coogan) is trying desperately to corral his prima donna cast. That cast includes the action guy, Tugg Speedman (Stiller), the award winner Kirk Lazarus (Downey Jr.), and the comedian Jeff Portnoy (Jack Black). Supporting actors include Jay Baruchel playing Kevin Sandusky (he was in Undeclared!), Brandon Jackson playing Alpa Chino, and Nick Nolte playing handless Vietnam Veteran Tayback. And that’s not all! Keep your eyes peeled for Tom Cruise in a role that is not nearly as funny or controversial as he thinks it is, and for Mathew McConaughy out-acting Tom Cruise in every scene they share.
    As shown in the trailers, the director decides he can make a better movie if he takes his cast out into the jungle and lets them act out the book upon which the movie is based. Naturally, things go horribly, horribly wrong. Speedman is taken captive when he inadvertently gets too close to the heroin producing Flaming Dragon gang. Lazarus and Sandusky concoct a plan to rescue Tuggman … whether he is ready to be saved or not.  The film’s climax involves a satisfactory level of explosions, an adequate amount of clown make-up and everyone’s hero — TIVO.
    The movie is not particularly memorable, but it is good for a laugh. As far as some of the more controversial moments, it seems like a lot of oversensitive people got riled up about legitimate parody. Downey Jr. in blackface is a deliberate joke on the kind of actor who goes overboard in becoming the character they’re playing. Stiller’s movie-within-a-movie, a parody of movies such as Rain Man and Forrest Gump, with developmentally disabled characters is a joke made in surprisingly good taste. In fact, Stiller comes off as positively enlightened when this parody is compared to, for example, the treatment of the disabled in Something About Mary. This one was pleasant and well-paced, but its certainly not going to break any box office records … it did manage to topple Dark Knight from its top spot at the box office this past weekend

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