Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Tropic Thunder

No, this isn’t one of the storms that hit Louisiana and Mississippi last weekend. It is one of the latest comedies my sister and I saw on my birthday. She was a bit skeptical when I said I needed some laughs, but she went along with me like the trooper she is and waited in the dark theatre while I reviewed the plot. We are sticklers for a good plot, creative dialogue, good directors, and excellent photography. So you can imagine that she felt inwardly that I had chosen a poor movie.

Ben Stiller sometimes makes me laugh, sometimes not. But in this picture, in which he starred, directed, and produced with help, he creates his comedic antics which are more exaggerated than funny. But when you combine four other actors playing roles almost out of their genre, you have laughter bubbling into the empty seats in front of you. (We go to the first showing.)

First, you have to sit through two ridiculous advertisements, actually a part of the movie we learn later, wondering how far off you’ve been in new sodas and music, then the movie begins unexpectedly. Here are five guys--Stiller, Robert Downey, Jr, Brandon T. Jackson, Jack Black and Jay Baruschel who play their characters to a T. Special notice goes to Robert Downey, Jr. in an Academy-award class perfection who unbelievably plays a black soldier (complete with a dye job on his skin) and speaking in an unfamiliar voice. He doesn’t seem to know much about the common expressions of black people, of which Jackson, a true black, reminds him constantly, but he slings out lines of black characters from TV shows and movies he’s seen(like lines from "The Jeffersons").

The premise is that these five are to play soldiers fighting a battle in Viet Nam, the story of which has been taken from a book written by a former ‘Nam vet, Nick Nolte. To save his skin, the director takes the author’s suggestions to give credence to the actors in a real setting and dumps the actors in the wild jungles of ‘Nam with a script and directions to the locations of the scenes. Unknown to them hidden cameras are placed high in trees.

Although there are a lot of explosions and gunfire, at least there aren’t any wrecking automobiles, buses and trains, so I was able to sit through this part of the action. Sometime laughing uncontrollably by the dialogue, I released all frustrations of having been in bed for two weeks with an infected sciatic nerve. Surprisingly one character, whom I shall not name, is totally disguised and plays a character unlike any he’s done before. If you don’t guess him early in the movie, he’s last in the roll call of characters at the end of the show. Even though my sister said early “Isn’t that ???” I replied “Noo way!” only to find out how right she was. (Just don't read the list of characters before you go so you can enjoy the surprise.)

For an entertaining couple of hours, see Tropic Thunder, especially if it’s raining outside--you get enough mud and rain and thunder-like noise sitting through this movie.

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