Tropic Thunder

So, yeah, I’ve been neglecting my blog for a little while now; my other project, The Dead Protagonists Society e-zine, just launched its second issue (shameless plug moment: send me an e-mail at if you’d like a copy), and I spent most of November working on that. Add in a holiday trip to visit my family, and it’s been a very busy month.

But, it’s a brand new day (and my one-year anniversary, whoo-hoo!), so I’m back. Let’s get started.

By now, I suspect most people have either heard of or seen “Tropic Thunder,” Ben Stiller’s directorial debut/Hollywood parody. But for those who don’t know, it’s a story about a war movie, or specifically, trying to make a war movie with little success. The fake film is based on a war memorial about a suicide mission to rescue a fallen soldier, but communication problems are rampant on the set, leading to one early joke; five days into filming, and the crew is already a month behind.

Part of the problem is the newbie director Damien Cockburn (Steve Coogan) can’t keep things on schedule; the rest of the problem is that he’s working with a cast of grizzled Prima Donnas who all want to run the show. Tugg Speedman (Stiller) is an aging action hero trying to revive his career; Jeff Portnoy (Jack Black) is a one-note comedian trying to show some range; and Kirk Lazarus (Robert Downey Jr.) is the method actor who gets so into his roles he ‘doesn’t break character until the DVD commentary’ and has dyed his skin to play the black leader of the rescue mission.

After witnessing the failures on the set, the author of the memoir, Four Leaf Tayback (Nick Nolte), gives the director a wild idea. Position cameras in the jungle, drop the actors off in the trenches without outside contact and with a list of scenes to complete, and various effects thrown in, and make them live their parts rather than just act.

And like all good movie watchers can see, things go horribly, horribly wrong for our actors. But their misery is our delight; the funniest scenes in the movie take place on their jungle journey that culminates leads to Tugg’s capture by Cambodian heroin farmers and an ill advised rescue operation.

The film is funny, but it’s also wildly inconsistent. Two moments in the film kept me laughing for inappropriately long moments, mainly because I knew I shouldn’t be laughing. Unfortunately, that only happened twice and the rest of my viewing was strangely silent.

It’s not a horrible experience, nor is it all that I hoped. Oh well; two riotously funny moments are more than enough.

“Tropic Thunder” (2008)

Directed by Ben Stiller

Written by Ben Stiller, Etan Cohen and Justin Theroux

Starring: Ben Stiller (Tugg Speedman)

Jack Black (Jeff Portnoy)

Robert Downey Jr. (Kirk Lazarus)