Written by Justin Theroux and Ben Stiller
Directed by Ben Stiller
Starring Ben Stiller, Robert Downey Jr., Jack Black, Jay Baruchel and Steve Coogan
Hollywood is hilarious. They’ve got agents ready to cover up dead hookers upon demand and actors with mandatory Tivo in their contracts. They’ve even got heads on the ends of rifles and people biting into live bats. Wait. That isn’t funny. It’s just plain dumb. There’s a fine line between crazy funny and scalping a panda you just killed to wear on your head. TROPIC THUNDER never figures out how to walk that line, falling on either side of it for some pretty uneven results.
In his first directing gig since the, and I can’t believe I’m writing this, infinitely more cohesive, ZOOLANDER, Ben Stiller takes a bunch of pampered actors and drop them in the middle of Vietnam so that they can shoot the greatest war movie ever (as if APOCAPLYPSE NOW would just crawl into a ditch with a live grenade or something). It’s funny in theory, sure, but even Stiller drops the concept early in. With the plot left behind, the men are left to trip over each other in the jungle, which is occasionally cool given that Robert Downey Jr. and Jack Black are fine company to keep but mostly it’s just meandering. I think they’re trying to make it home but who cares really when we keep cutting back to a bald headed, furry-chested, Tom Cruise as a Hollywood executive who just loves telling people to (bleep) themselves whenever he feels like. (Seriously though, he’s pretty funny.)
Thank you, Ben Stiller, for showing me just how hilarious Hollywood likes to think it is and for reminding me just how far out of step it is with the rest of the world. One minute, you’re laughing hysterically at them. The next, they’re the only ones in on the joke and they’re laughing all by themselves. Lucky for them, most of their laughing happens all the way to the bank.