I'd like to take a moment to suggest the Academy nominate Robert Downey Jr. for Best Actor. Seriously, his performance in TROPIC THUNDER was a comedic masterpiece that deserves recognition and the film wouldn't have been half as fun without him. Oh, wait. Maybe I should review the movie!
TROPIC THUNDER is ostensibly a satire of the rampaging excesses of Hollywood and focuses on the making of war movie being shot in Viet Nam that's hampered by a newbie director and its borderline insane lead actors. When the director admits to the film's tyrannical producer that he's lost control of the production, he's advised in very profane terms that the only way to deal with out-of-line actors is to get mean, so, spurred on by a suggestion from the 'Nam vet author of the memoir the film's based on, the director drops the film's five principals off in Myanmar and tells them he's going to shoot a down-and-dirty, semi-improvised bit of footage that'll get the actors back on track putting them to the test in the rough, with minimal crew and supervision. And then the shit hits the fan in all manner of ways, several of which are potentially fatal to all involved.
That's really all I can say without giving away the comedic surprises — you'll note I've taken pains not to discuss most of the cast; you'll discover it all for yourself — but I will say that what starts out as a "Fuck you" to Hollywood turns into more or less a straight-up action-comedy about halfway through the movie, and while it's still quite funny its shift in tone and focus is somewhat strange. But that's not much of an issues when you have Ben Stiller as a clueless action star, Jack Black as a manic and unwillingly detoxing comedy star, and a host of others willing to look and act like complete and total morons and assholes, with Downey's balls-out nutjob Australian uber-thesp who's so "method" that he get his skin surgically darkened in order to portray a black character.
Affecting a "ghetto" accent and rocking a theoretically-scary-to-white-folks facial intensity, Downey's a fucking pisser from start to finish and I have to applaud him for taking a role that if mishandled could have resulted in him being torn limb from limb by irate black people whenever he set foot out of his house. I swear I haven't laughed at anything so hard in a long time — just ask Karate Hottie; I was doubled over cracking up on several occasions — and it should be made clear that this is not a blackface role, but is actually a study of a guy who's completely insane and won't drop character — he states that he's there to make a movie and won't go out of character until he records the DVD commentary — even when the plot takes a scary and incredibly dangerous turn.
TROPIC THUNDER is by no means perfect, but it is funny and it gains points for Downey and Ben Stiller's jaw-droppingly un-PC nod to nauseating and offensive allegedly star-making performances that involve actors portraying the mentally handicapped. You've probably heard about the controversy over the film's allegedly insensitive usage of the words "retard" and "retarded" and the protests over its supposed hurtful and mocking intent, but it's quite apparent that the protestors have not seen the film and are aware of the use of the derogatory verbiage out of context. As used in the movie, the offending terms come from the mouths of people we're clearly supposed to see as clueless, self-absorbed egomaniacal assholes, and the way they use the words paints the users of the terms in a highly unflattering light; the film does not mock the mentally handicapped, but it does mock the insensitive Hollywood jerkoffs who exploit them in order to garner critical kudos by turning in "sensitive" and "heartwarming" performances in movies like THE OTHER SISTER, RADIO and I AM SAM.
So TRUST YER BUNCHE and check this one out in the theater. Just make sure you don't miss the coming attraction reels (HINT, HINT).