Tropic Thunder (2008) yanks its audience from their seat and doesn’t put them down until the last of the credits have rolled by. It gathers veteran comedic actors and basically says, “Okay, now pretend you’re filming a Vietnam war movie but people are actually shooting at you and you may die. Also, Robert, you’re going to be a white Australian guy in blackface. Make it funny, guys. We’ll be back to check on you in a few weeks.”
In all reality, that’s the plot of the movie: a group of actors are filming a movie set during the Vietnam War and are forced to become the soldiers they are portraying. If I hadn’t seen who the stars were, I would have assumed this was a horror film. Yet, Stiller, Black, and Downey somehow create one of the funniest war movies ever; that is definitely not something I ever thought was possible.
Why Was This Filmed?
I find myself asking this question every single time I watch it. Who in their right mind said, “You know what would be funny? If we made a movie about a bunch of actors trying not to die while they film a war movie. Oh, and it will be blatantly offensive. And racist. And there will be a part where Jack Black plays every role in a family and they spend a good two or three minutes farting. Let’s throw in McConaughey and Cruise, too.”
However, when you find out whose idea it was, everything makes a bit more sense — Mr. Stiller himself. He always thought it was funny how his actor friends would talk about preparing for filming war movies; they would often compare it to the real travesties that soldiers went through. Stiller thought that was ludicrous — they only went through a watered-down version of real boot camp — and wanted to poke fun at that concept, a goal he accomplished in Tropic Thunder.
I never thought that such a premise behind a movie would ever work. People wouldn’t go for something like that. It’s too violent for comedy and too offensive for a general audience. Who would ever find that funny? Apparently a lot of people, including me.
Robert Downey Jr., I Love You
Yes, I believe that Mr. Downey deserves his own section for his riotous performance. I’ll never know how he did it, but somehow he made a borderline offensive role into an Oscar-nominated performance. He was in blackface, for Pete’s sakes. How???
I’ll tell you how: he was just drop-dead funny. Robert Downey Jr. has that uncanny ability to make people laugh at any given time. He has the sarcasm of Rodney Dangerfield and the timing of Jerry Seinfeld. Plus, Robert is the owner of some of the best lines to come out of this film:
I know who I am. I’m the dude playin’ the dude, disguised as another dude!
Never go full retard.
I don’t break character until I do the DVD commentary! (Fun fact: Robert Downey Jr. really didn’t break character until after the DVD commentary.)
Same thing happened to me when I played Neil Armstrong in Moonshot. They found me in an alley in Burbank trying to re-enter the earth’s atmosphere in an old refrigerator box.
Still not convinced? Watch these clips:
This really only adds to my personal theory that Robert Downey Jr. was actually given superpowers from that horrible Burger King burger he ate one time (if you don’t know what I’m talking about, look at the story of how he got off drugs). Ever since then, his career has been on the up-and-up and I’ve never loved him more.
Tom Cruise is…Funny?
Let me set the record straight: I really dislike Tom Cruise. I think he’s an arrogant, strange little man.
However, there is something to be said for the man’s dedication to a role. He does all his own stunts, even shattering his ankle during the filming of Mission: Impossible — Fallout (2018) (a detail you can actually see in the finished film). And he’s in phenomenal shape for a guy his age.
And he’s surprisingly funny. Playing big-shot executive Les Grossman, he is somehow annoying and hilarious all at the same time. Plus, I just can’t stop laughing at how funny he looked without hair and sporting a nerdy goatee and large hipster glasses. Really throws you off the Maverick, Top Gun (1986) look.
I really hate to say it, but Tom Cruise had a highly amusing role in this film and deserves way more credit than he gets for it.
Go Over the Top and Keep Going
Tropic Thunder makes no pretense about being serious. The whole movie is one extremely unlikely coincidence after another. The whole plot is based on the fact that a group of cocaine smugglers are trying to kill the actors who ended up in the wrong place at the wrong time.
I just love the choice to make the whole movie seem so outlandish. From Ben Stiller’s grossly blown off hands to the cocaine smugglers fascination with Simple Jack — Tugg Speedman’s grossly overacted handicapped role — it just gets dumber and dumber by the minute.
So, why do I love it so much?
Simply because it’s so stupid. It’s so stupid it’s funny. Nowadays, it seems that people have such high standards for what they want their movies to be. They want the humor to be funny yet understated; the action heart-pounding but not too unbelievable; they want characters to be three-dimensional but not cliché.
But Tropic Thunder takes all of this and says, “Screw it. Let’s make whatever movie we want, with as much over-the-top action, humor, and dumb characters as we can muster. And while we’re at it, let’s make a trailer where Robert Downey Jr. AKA Kirk Lazarus plays a gay priest.”
Basically what I love about Tropic Thunder is that it doesn’t care and it goes as hard on this film as it wants.
Not for Everyone
I won’t lie to you: this film isn’t for everyone. If you hate grossly stupid humor, you won’t like it. If you get offended easily, don’t watch it. And if you hate just letting loose once in a while and realizing that you don’t have to act cool and cultured all the time, don’t watch it. Go back to watching your five-star films and drinking fine wines and leave the bawdy humor to the lower classes.
Tropic Thunder is hilarious. It puts Robert Downey Jr. in a role we normally don’t see him in and puts him with veteran comedic actors like Jack Black and Ben Stiller. Tropic Thunder is basically a two-hour SNL special; there’s not a moment without a joke.
I absolutely think Tropic Thunder is worth a watch, even once. Trust me, you won’t regret it.
Thank you for reading! What are you thoughts on Tropic Thunder? Comment down below!
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