Elaine at the movies : Tropic Thunder

Elaine Blum

Anyone could guess from the previews that “Tropic Thunder” had great potential for being a flop. However, such movies have occasionally surprised me. I went with low expectations and, since I am a Ben Stiller fan, I gave it the benefit of the doubt. The movie has its brief moments, but overall I encourage viewers to save their three-plus dollars and two hours of time.
Basic premise: While filming a war movie, five actors are left in the middle of tropical Vietnam. They are led to believe that the jungle’s dangers — including armed and angry Vietnamese drug traffickers — are all part of the elaborate filming process.
Though Ben Stiller fans will not be completely disappointed, this is not the best role of his career. If you want to see Stiller at his best, I fully endorse “Heavy Weights,” “Mystery Men” or “Zoolander.”
Tugg Speedman of “Tropic Thunder” simply has nothing on Tony Perkis or Captain Furious. This role lacks something memorable. Maybe it lacks freshness — it is just a hodgepodge of previous roles. Or perhaps I missed the wealth of quotable one-liners that usually accompanies a Ben Stiller movie.
Granted, there are a few scenes in which Stiller hilariously exercises his talent at crazed overreacting. In order to avoid ruining one of the only two laugh-out-loud funny scenes of the film, I will say simply this: One scene involves Stiller and a panda bear and ends with a classic Stiller freakout. Such scenes do not tickle everyone’s funny bones, but any Stiller fan will enjoy them.
“Tropic Thunder” is also a witty commentary on the filmmaking industry. For example, it largely satirizes filmmakers’ tendencies to produce films for the purpose of making money or securing prestigious awards for the actors. Robert Downey Jr.’s character also satirizes the lengths to which actors will go in order to secure a role.
Though highly entertaining, this commentary only comes in fits and bursts throughout the movie. To fill in the gaps and force a laugh, the movie too frequently relies on unnecessary crude humor. It would have been so much better if the film had cut the so-so filler and relied more on this premise — showing how ridiculous actors and filmmakers can be.
Furthermore, it is amazing how many big-name stars are in this film. It could not possibly be the highlight in any acting career. I especially have no idea why Tom Cruise chose his role in this movie. Booty shaking to “Low” cannot possibly be high paying nor esteemed. Is this the best role Cruise can land now that most of America thinks he has gone crazy?
If only we could take the funny scenes and cut out the unnecessary gore and crude humor. Perhaps then we would only have a 30-minute-long movie, but it would be more worth the time and money. I, for one, am very glad that I paid only three dollars to see this movie. Thank you Marcus Valley cheap seats.