In cinemas nationwide on 13 August
My favorite part of going to the movies is the previews. So for me, screenings (which have no previews) feel like they are missing something. “Tropic Thunder,” the new Ben Stiller film, immediately alleviated me of this loss with an opening scene of mock-previews. This was a clever way to introduce the main characters of the film: action star, Tugg Speedman (Stiller), Eddie-Murphy-fat-suit-wearing-esque, Jeff Portnoy (Jack Black), “real” actor, Kirk Lazarus (Robert Downey Jr.) who has undergone experimental surgery to turn his skin brown, and hip-hop star Alpa Chino (Brandon T. Jackson).
The premise: these four actors and newcomer Kevin Sandusky (Jay Baruchel) are in Vietnam filming a movie based on a book by Nam hero John “Four Leaf” Tayback. There’s trouble on the set with first time director, actors have egos, $4 million explosions occur when the camera isn’t rolling, and the man putting his money behind this whole thing (played by Tom Cruise) is PISSED. So at the suggestion of “Four Leaf,” the newby director drops his five whiny actors in the jungle to fend for themselves with hidden cameras surrounding them. But the catch is, it’s real now, and they’re being pursued by heavily armed drug farmers (fronted by a very angry Asian boy).
Hilarity should ensue, and the movie did get a few laughs out of me (and surely will out of other audiences) but it wasn’t comic gold. Stiller plays a cross between Zoolander and his character in “Dodgeball” – snore. Jack Black is going through a drug relapse the whole time and his antics are more annoying than funny. But naming someone Alpa Chino actually IS funny always, like having the coach in “Blades of Gory” played by Coach. Also awesome is Robert Downey Jr. in blackface. And despite my usual distaste for Tom Cruise (something about that laugh…) he’s pretty great in his fat suit and balding head shaking his butt to T-pain’s “Apple Bottom Jeans.”