Blu-ray and DVD Reviews

Tropic Thunder (2-Disc Director's Cut)

Reviewed by: Scott Chitwood
Movie Rating:
8 out of 10
Extras Rating:
9 out of 10
Movie Details:
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Rating: Unrated

Starring:
Ben Stiller as Tugg Speedman
Jack Black as Jeff 'Fats' Portnoy
Robert Downey Jr. as Kirk Lazarus
Brandon T. Jackson as Alpa Chino
Jay Baruchel as Kevin Sandusky
Danny McBride as Cody
Steve Coogan as Damien Cockburn
Bill Hader as Rob Slolom
Nick Nolte as "Four-Leaf" Tayback
Brandon Soo Hoo as Tran
Reggie Lee as Byong
Tom Cruise as Less Grossman
Matthew McConaughey as Peck

Directed by Ben Stiller

Special Features:
Filmmaker and cast commentaries
Before The Thunder
The Hot LZ
Blowing S#%t Up
Designing The Thunder
The Cast Of Tropic Thunder
Ruin Of Madness
Dispatches from the Edge Of Madness
Deleted And Extended Scenes
Alternate Ending
MTV Movie Awards - Tropic Thunder
Full Mags
Video Rehersals

Other Info:
Widescreen (2.35:1)
Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound
Spanish, French Language
Spanish, French Subtitles
Running Time: 120 Minutes

Synopsis:
The following is from the official DVD description:

"Ben Stiller, Jack Black and Robert Downey Jr. lead an ensemble cast in 'Tropic Thunder,' an action comedy about a group of self-absorbed actors who set out to make the most expensive war film. After ballooning costs force the studio to cancel the movie, the frustrated director refuses to stop shooting, leading his cast into the jungles of Southeast Asia, where they encounter real bad guys."

"Tropic Thunder (2-Disc Director's Cut)" is not rated. The theatrical version was rated R for pervasive language including sexual references, violent content and drug material.

Mini-Review:
I saw "Tropic Thunder" for the first time at the San Diego Comic-Con. After a custom intro to the film by Stiller, Black, and Downey Jr. (which I wish was on the DVD but isn't), the film rolled to the uproarious laughter of the audience. The next time I watched it was in a home theater with a group of friends who had never seen it before. I have to say that half the fun of "Tropic Thunder" is watching it with a crowd and hearing their laughter. Especially a crowd that appreciates making fun of Hollywood.

Making fun of the movie industry can be a tricky business. Quite often there are too many inside jokes or gags that only people in Hollywood will get. That alienates a big portion of the audience and is frequently the reason the movie bombs. But "Tropic Thunder" is funny on its own. Ben Stiller is hilarious as the egotistical and dimwitted action star. Brandon T. Jackson generates laughs as the rapper-turned-actor Alpa Chino. Jack Black perfectly skewers the drug addicted comedian in a serious role as Jeff 'Fats' Portnoy.

But the person that really makes the movie is Robert Downey Jr. as Kirk Lazarus. He walked an incredibly fine line between being offensive or funny by playing the role in black face. I think the ridiculous setup of a white actor playing a black man was so outrageous that it made everything else he did in the movie funny. He's so obsessed by staying 'in character' that he takes it to ridiculous lengths. And having Alpa Chino saying everything that the audience might be thinking helped make it definitively funny and not offensive. Who knew Robert Downey Jr. could be so funny? The scene where he played an Australian actor playing a black man playing a Chinese man had me in stitches.

Besides the main cast, Stiller has assembled a fantastic supporting cast. Tom Cruise is memorable if not recognizable as Less Grossman, the studio executive. (I had people tell me they knew executives like this in Hollywood.) Danny McBride is a great pyromaniac as Cody. Matthew McConaughey (who stepped in for Owen Wilson) does a great job as the agent, Peck. Throw in Nick Nolte as "Four-Leaf" Tayback, Steve Coogan as director Damien Cockburn, and Bill Hader as Rob Slolom and you have a great lineup. And while it might be easy to forget Jay Baruchel as Kevin Sandusky, he holds his own against Stiller, Black, and Downey Jr.

Another highlight of "Tropic Thunder" is the group of opening trailers. From the spoof of endless action sequels to the Oscar bait drama to the fart comedies, they perfectly set the opening of the film and the characters.

On the negative side, the third act of "Tropic Thunder" is a bit slow. Between the time of them getting dumped in the jungle and the final rescue, there are a lot of long lulls in the pacing. The movie also took a lot of heat for the "full retard" speech. I get what Stiller was trying to say with the joke because Hollywood does seem to have an infatuation with roles about mental handicaps. They certainly do seem to have a formula for awarding actors that do that. But having a friend with a child who has Down's Syndrome and seeing all that they have to go through, it's a bit hard to laugh at the joke. I wish Stiller would have found other territory to cover.

If you're looking for a funny yet crude comedy, "Tropic Thunder" will fit the bill. And if you want to see Hollywood utterly skewered, this movie is required viewing for you.

The 2-Disc Director's Cut and Blu-ray Disc have a ton of bonus features to offer. You'll find your commentaries, making of videos, and other typical stuff. In fact, a lot of it is quite dry as you see them set up the explosions, building sets, and doing makeup tests. But the extras venture back into the realm of comedy with "Rain of Madness," a Werner Herzog-like mockumentary on the making of "Tropic Thunder." Everyone is in character as the documentary unfolds. There are hilarious scenes with Kirk Lazarus meeting the family of the character he's playing, scenes with the director, and Speedman meeting Four-Leaf for the first time. It's quite funny. These are supplemented with "Dispatches from the Edge of Madness," short films showing Steve Coogan as director Damien Cockburn pulling his hair out on the set. There aren't all that many deleted or extended scenes. There is an alternate ending, but it mainly shows Matthew McConaughey as Peck being captured by the drug dealers after Speedman escapes.

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