Tropic Thunder Ben Stiller

Tropic Thunder Ben Stiller
Normally a film packed with such a loaded cast as Ben Stiller, Jack Black, Tom Cruise, Nick Nolte, Steve Coogan, Matthew McConaughey and 2008’s golden boy, Robert Downey Jr., would suffer from such extravagant casting, but like the many potential problems it sets itself up for, Tropic Thunder makes all of these egos on screen together work. It puts Downey’s five-time Oscar-winning Kirk Lazarus in blackface and Stiller’s expired action star in the role of a "retard” farm boy, makes Black’s flatulent brat a drug addict, Nolte’s Nam vet a phoney who lies in his biography and newcomer Brandon T. Jackson a stereotypical hip-hop star named Alpa Cino, pushing an energy drink called Booty Sweat. All of the characters are exaggerations of Hollywood clichés but then again, that’s Tropic Thunder’s bread and butter: using an insider’s experience to satirize the superficial and over-excessive industry that feeds them. Though the jokes have a tendency to become a little too inside and miss their target (like any of Stiller’s directorials though, really), the premise is a direct hit: take a troubled, big budget war flick and inject it with all sorts of hang-ups, along with some realism, wherein your cast are dropped into an actual war zone while still thinking the cameras are rolling. It’s consistently overtly absurd but features some of the most fun to be had this year. And all that talk about Downey getting a real Oscar nod, well, it’s a performance you need to see, and not just to believe. In fact, he’s so effective that he does the commentary (with Stiller and Black) in character, as Sgt. Lincoln Osiris. This commentary is even better than initially seeing the movie, hearing them dissect every minute detail, with each living up to their comedic reps. Downey’s joking complaint about his and Stiller’s height is a priceless moment. Otherwise, there is a rather good alternate ending and deleted scene showing what Stiller’s Speedman carries in his pack (a DVD copy of The Queen???), a "making of” where Stiller and co-writer Justin Theroux talk about the ten years it took to put the script together and how Downey "destroyed any possibility of them having a leg to stand on in the future.” There are more effects and cast-driven featurettes than you can shake a stick at, as well as "Dispatching From the Edge of Madness,” a series of faux video diaries by filmmaker Jan Jürgen (Theroux), who gives a behind-the-scenes look at the troubled film falling apart. (Dreamworks/Paramount)