It snuck up on me all of a sudden. While seated in the darkened cinema, an advertisement screened for the most ridiculous soft drink I had never heard of. That was followed by a trailer for another sequel to a trilogy of films I had never heard of. And by the time Robert Downey Junior showed up in a cassock with Tobey Maguire clutching his rosary beads, I knew the movie – if not the movie proper – had begun.
Tropic Thunder begins (after the mock trailers) with a bang or seven, and then settles down into a fairly familiar rhythm. This is a Ben Stiller film, so everything is pretty much telegraphed from the get-go, but there are still chuckles aplenty. Amazing turns from Robert Downey Junior, as a scarily-blue eyed Australian wunder-thesp who had cosmetic surgery to turn him black for his current role, and a barely recognisable Tom Cruise keep things very lively, though when Ben Stiller appears solo centre stage, a feeling of creeping death started to gnaw at me.
In fact, quite a few people were turned off Tropic Thunder by the Ben Stiller factor, and I have to say that I am turning into one of those people too. His scenes just weren’t that funny, and his character was just a slightly less dense (and much less appealing) Derek Zoolander. Jack Black played the fat man to a similar level of comedic success, and Nick Nolte played grizzled experience for the first 15 minutes of the film and then kind of faded away. But they didn’t really matter in the grand scheme of things: Robert Downey Junior and Tom Cruise are all the reasons one needs to see this film.
There were guest cameos aplenty: Jon Voight, Jennifer Lovely Hewitt and the aforementioned Tobey Maguire (amongst others) all showed up for a wee while, and there were plenty of “white men being black” scenes for negative hipness points. As the movie is all about guys making a war movie, there were no female characters, and thus no love story, which leaves lots of room for guns, explosions and fairly quick and trite self-epiphanies, of which there were plenty.
But for all of its unoriginality and superficiality, Tropic Thunder is loads of stupid, simple fun, with a few movie references thrown in for good measure. For me, the film started at a high comedic point (especially with those trailers) and then swiftly plunged into only moments of hilarity by the time Steve Coogan departed. But there were still guffaws to be had throughout, and the final dance scene has to be seen to be believed.
Verdict: Aiming low and reaching that goal, Tropic Thunder is a load of nonsense with a few very good performances making it worth the watch. Everyone had fun though, both on the screen and in the audience, which was the main thing. 6.5 Platoons out of 10.