13 August 2008

Mooney at the Movies: Tropic Thunder

"So you mean to tell me that our joke about actors playing the mentally disabled offended groups representing the mentally disabled? That's retarded." (DreamWorks)

Tropic Thunder (A-)

Starring Ben Stiller, Jack Black, Robert Downey Jr, Brandon T. Jackson, Steve Coogan, Nick Nolte, Danny McBride
Story by Stiller & Justin Theroux
Screenplay by Stiller & Theroux and Etan Cohen
Directed by Stiller

This may sound improbable, but Tropic Thunder is the smartest stupid comedy of the year.

From the smarmy highs of Smart People to the shameful but hilarious lows of Step Brothers, comedies this year have run the gamut, but Tropic Thunder is the brightest of them all (at least of the summer months). It's been a good while since we've had a satire this sharp, and boy is it welcome.

Whether it's the action star in need of a career reboot (Stiller, eerily similar to Tom Cruise, who makes a cameo here) to the hefty, drug-addicted comedian (Black, who's definitely a less tragic Chris Farley-type) to the ultra-serious Method actor (the brilliant Downey Jr, adhering to the Russell Crowe/Heath Ledger pastiche), the stranded stars of the incredibly expensive Vietnam picture, they all deserve to be taken down a peg.

But there's more than just brilliant parody, there's also plenty of darn funny jokes too. There's Stiller's accidental panda-cide, Black's withdrawals (and his increasingly outrageous promises to anyone who will release him from them), and Tom Cruise swearing up a storm, just to name a few. And enough simply cannot be said about Robert Downey Jr's performance. He's officially back on track, and between this and Iron Man (and last year's Zodiac snub), he deserves another Oscar nomination.

There's so much to love here and so much takes place that any plot description or further explanation would spoil the surprises that lie within (including glorious fake trailers, a trend I pray continues in years to come). So close this webpage, go outside, and get yourself to theater immediately and prepare to laugh like you haven't laughed in a while. But don't worry about staying through the end credits; they're the only weak part of the whole movie.

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