Starring co-writer and director Ben Stiller, Jack Black, Robert Downey Jr., and Tom Cruise in a rare comedic role, Tropic Thunder has a comedy pedigree that guarantees laughter. The film delivers some of the funniest characters in some of best written comedic scenes to appear on screen in years, yet, when you lump them all together, in the end, I found myself asking the question; why isn’t this movie consistently funny?
Perhaps the answer is to be found within the extensive bonus material on the new, special edition release of the Director’s Cut of Tropic Thunder out on Blu-ray from KL Studio Classics, which is also paired with their Ultra HD release of the Theatrical Cut. There are numerous featurettes, but fundamentally it is one long feature broken up by specific subject.
In one conversation, the writing is being discussed, and Stiller and Theroux talk about emailing funny scenes to each other. That is what this movie is. A collection of very funny scenes. Scenes that I cannot stop watching, studying, embracing, and enjoying, yet, when I sit and watch the whole movie, I realize that I was not laughing consistently through the film. Perhaps it is the violent setting of Vietnam, the take on drug addiction and trafficking, mental impairment, or simply that there is too much going on in this story to give each scene its due and come in under two hours. The Director’s Cut has an additional 15 minutes and comes in at 121 minutes.
For those of you not familiar with what is considered by many to be a comedy classic, Tropic Thunder is the story of five actors making a movie about soldiers on a rescue mission during the Vietnam war. Yes, it’s a comedy. Ben Stiller plays Tug Speedman, the Rambo-esque action star. Jack Black is fart humor comedy star Jeff Portnoy. Robert Downey Jr. is five-time Oscar winner, Australian Kirk Lazarus, who goes through a medical procedure to have his skin darkened to play an African American soldier. The cast is rounded out by Jay Baruchel as Kevin Sandusky and Brandon T. Jackson as Alpa Chino. The depth of these characters is one of the most attractive and brilliant aspects of this movie. Baruchel and Jackson may be in supportive roles here, but the observations their characters make of the bigger “stars” are some of the funniest moments in the film.
Our characters are thrown into an actual war-like situation as Tugg is taken captive by a 12-year-old drug lord, and the rest of the team attempt to rescue him. Meanwhile, the writer of the film being produced within the film, Vietnam vet Four-Leaf Tayback (Nick Nolte) and the special effects technician Cody Underwood (Danny McBride) are getting into trouble on their own while producer Les Grossman (Tom Cruise) and his assistant Rob Slolom (Bill Hader) are back in Hollywood screaming about the budget. We can’t forget that Tugg’s agent Rick “The Pecker” Peck (Mathew McConaughey) is trying desperately to ensure that his client has TiVo. Does this story seem very busy to anyone else? It is, but it is woven together so intricately, that one cannot look away. It’s not my intention to leave out director Damien Cockburn (Steve Coogan) who has some wonderful moments that may have you laughing your head off.
The performances are too strong to single out just one, and that is a testament to the actors and the writing. Tropic Thunder needs to be experienced. I have studied this film through each of my many viewings and will continue to do so. I am enthralled by the depth of the characters and the intricacy of the script. I also keep watching the movie to figure out why I sit back after each viewing wondering why I wasn’t laughing throughout.
This new release receives Ron’s Recommendation. Fans of the movie will love all the bonus material apart from the 30-minute documentary where they attempt to realistically chronicle what happened to the actors in a spoof that doesn’t work. The additional 15 minutes in the Director’s Cut is enjoyable, as is the bonus material where the decisions to make the cuts are discussed.