Not a different name for Montezuma’s Revenge, but close enough
A great man once said, “There’s a fine line between stupid and clever.” That man was David St. Hubbins, and he also wrote songs about Big Bottoms and living in Hell Holes, so we certainly have to take everything he says under very serious consideration. Few philosophers have so accurately captured the zeitgeist as Mr. St. Hubbins has. Sometimes being stupid IS clever, and sometimes trying to be too clever can make you look extremely stupid. I’ve done both before, and both involved me, the home version of Jeopardy, a bottle of Tequila, a blow up doll known only as El Trebek, and 15 of my closest friends who are no longer on my Xmas mailing list.
ANYGAY, keeping that in mind, and after about 75 Apatow-style comedy movie films in the past 2 weeks, I was finally treated to a film that comes from an older, more familiar brand of comedy. A comedy that feels like someone actually wrote a funny script instead of saying a line 200 different times in order to get the best way to say “I’m going to suck your dick”*. A “written” comedy, so to speak. So new, so fresh**! And so we have Tropic Thunder.
*A: “I’m going to give you the best blow-jay….EVER! With my mouth.”
**Much unlike thrift store underpanties.
Tropic Thunder is a film about things masquerading as other things. From the most obvious level of super-important actors in a war movie being put in a real life war situation, to the fact that it itself is a big budget studio Hollywood event film that mercilessly lampoons big budget studio Hollywood event films, it embodies this fact through-and-through.
And it begins with a bang(yuck-yuck!) by not even warning you that the trailers and the ubiquitous let’s-show-you-commercials-but-call-it-a-“pre-show-countdown” are finished, and supplying some of its own. This most inventive way of introducing the main characters through trailers of their past films is at once the most hilarious and most vicious part of the entire film. Jack Black starring in a big, broad comedy with farts? Check. Ben Stiller in a Big Pointless Action sequel? Check. Robert Downey, Jr. in a big “gay-art-house” let’s-get-an-Oscar-film? Check.
And each character has a familiar “Hollywood problem”: substance abuse, the “I’m a rich action hero, and not a respected actor” disease, and “I AM a ACTOR, and only am comfortable with James Lipton interviewing me in a pompous manner” syndrome.
All of these types get thrown in the SHIT by an desperate director(Steve Coogan) and an uber-disturbing Vietnam vet (played perfectly by the gravelly voiced Nick Nolte) who decide that the only way these pampered actors are really going to get into character is to put them in a Werner Herzog, guerilla film-making situation. This backfires quite quickly. Well, explodes quite quickly, to be more accurate.
Ben Stiller, who wrote, directed, and stars in the film, just may have made his Citizen Kane. The film is at times hilarious, exhilarating, and spot-on in its humor. One can only imagine that a person so firmly entrenched in, and yet with enough perspective about, the Hollywood system could make a film like this. But really, do you think Stiller didn’t have a gigantic air-conditioned villa when he was shooting Tropic Thunder, exactly the same way his character does? I think not. It’s good to see him back to his Zoolander/Ben Stiller Show form. At least we can get some funny out of him before we have to see “Meet the Little Focker” . Blecch.
My reaction: 4 out of 5 (hilariously awesome)
Next week: Well, hope you enjoyed all the summer blockbuster films, cause the summer is fucking OVER! We go into the cinematic wasteland season after Event-films and before the end of the year oscar push. Thus: Death Race and The House Bunny. Til then I’ll be working on blackface routine. Stay racialist, kids.