There’s no doubt in my mind that Tom Cruise made this movie. I’m no Cruise apologist, but he was absolutely hilarious and nearly unrecognizable as a fat, balding, foul-mouthed movie executive.
With that being said, Tropic Thunder was really very funny. I’m not sure it’s as good as many make it out to be, but its star-power alone (most of whom brazenly goof on themselves) guarantees entertainment.
If you’re not familiar with the plot, Ben Stiller plays a Tom Cruise-ish action star hoping to revive his career in a movie based upon a book called Tropic Thunder, written by Nick Nolte’s character, a solider who supposedly helped rescue his POW friends. Robert Downey, Jr., plays an Oscar-winning Australian who undergoes surgery in order to play a black solider. Jack Black plays a Chris Farley (or Jack Black) style of actor who’s made his living on fart jokes. Matthew McConaughey plays Stiller’s agent, and he, like Cruise, gives an unusual and therefore appreciated performance. Finally, Steve Coogan plays the director of this movie-within-a-movie.
With all the self-obsessed actors <ahem!> acting up, Nolte’s character suggests Coogan drops them into the jungle for real in order to get honest emotions. Before long, things go awry and Stiller’s character is taken prisoner by a drug cartel. The other actors now must decide if they head for home or launch a daring rescue operation, just like the movie they were previously making.
While I love Ben Stiller, every character he plays is essentially the same. Jack Black, too, suffers largely from this dilemma. Downey, Jr., as a black man got old after a while, but I believe this was actually done on purpose focusing upon method actors’ inability to reclaim their own persona. Nick Nolte was funny, but I’m fairly certain it wasn’t on purpose. I was glad to see McConaughey playing a role that didn’t involve a romantic comedy, and Steve Coogan’s performance, while short, was typically wonderful. As I said, though, the surprising scene-stealer was far and way Tom Cruise.
Tropic Thunder was funny, entertaining, and fast-paced, but it wasn’t horribly original and the acting, other than Cruise and Downey, Jr., wasn’t anything you haven’t seen before from the movie’s stars.