Thursday, August 14, 2008

Tropic Thunder

On the way to work this morning I heard on the radio the leader of a national disabilities advocacy group discuss his hope that folks will refuse to see Tropic Thunder, the new Ben Stiller laugh-fest, because of its repeated use of the word "retarded."

Dude, I gots news for ya: the repeated use of the word "retarded" is the least of this film's politically incorrect messages.

Seriously. The least.

And I loved it.

I'm not a fan of gratuitous use of stereotype and generalization. Most of the films that employ those are third generation rip-offs of once great movies, or are just so damn silly that they can't be taken seriously (or in some cases, even watched). You know, the cheap-ass movies that hope to catch on with tweeners once they hit the DVD shelves at Blockbuster, but which have no real substance or smarts. Movies that once you finish it, makes you think --whether you want to or not --"well, that was sorta [something other than smart]"

Tropic Thunder isn't retarded.

Tropic Thunder successfully makes fun of all those movies that perpetuate stereotype and promote generalization. Just like some have "taken back" offensive words and phrases once used to belittle or spread hate, Tropic Thunder examines Hollywood excess and greed in order to put it in it's proper place: as something to be mocked and laughed at, instead of being something to glorify.

And it makes you pee in your pants laughing in the process.

Stiller's washed up actor Tugg Speedman is on the wrong side of the What's Hot And What's Not list, and sees his lead role in a dramatic war movie as his ticket back to stardom. Robert Downey, Jr. is Kirk Lazarus, an actor who goes to great lengths to get into the skin of the characters he plays. And Jack Black is the heroin addicted comedic actor Jeff Portnoy, who wants to be taken seriously as an actor, but isn't.

Dropped into a dense jungle near a large drug manufacturing farm, the actors at first believe they are carrying out a scene from the movie they are shooting. Then, after all hell breaks loose, they realize they are in a fight for their lives.

But it's a funny fight. A goddamned, mother-fucking, hell-raising, politically incorrect, funny as hell fight. And a terrific movie.

The only thing better than catching a smart Ben Stiller comedy on opening night is watching it with a best friend who enjoys it just as much as I. Hoyt and I started laughing a few seconds into the flick, and we never stopped for more than a minute.

As Hoyt said as we left: Tom Cruise may have redeemed himself of his couch jump with this role in Tropic Thunder. And I'll go as far as to say it was Cruise's best role since Risky Business. I was sort of surprised he took the supporting role, then remembered that sometimes you gotta stop taking yourself too seriously, and say: "What the fuck."

It's a lesson a lot of folks could learn.

1 comment:

Hoyt said...

I think it's Cruise's best work since Magnolia. I also think he's "jumped back" from "the couch."

I like that Stiller and company took the risks here, too. It worked. That's what the better comedies--like Borat--do. "What the fuck" indeed!