‘Tropic Thunder’ spoofs action stars, war movies | TahoeDailyTribune.com

‘Tropic Thunder’ spoofs action stars, war movies

Howie Nave

DreamWorksAt center, Ben Stiller, Robert Downey Jr. and Jack Black are among the stars of "Tropic Thunder."

Well, it’s about time: Ben Stiller finally has a funny flick out this summer that holds its own against the juggernaut that is everything Judd Apatow. And Stiller tackles both the parody genre and the filmmaking machine itself.

For a while there, it seemed like Hollywood insisted that we watch war movies while a war was raging overseas. Critics praised some of those movies, but the bottom line was that the majority died a weekend death only to have their DVD release date pushed up. With the wave of blockbusters about anything but war, it seems that Hollywood got the hint.

Taking the concept one step further is comedic actor Stiller, who has fashioned a picture parodying such movies and poking fun of self-absorbed actors. Stiller’s movies have ranged from the very funny – “Meet the Parents” (2000), “Zoolander” (2001) and “The Royal Tenenbaums (2001) – to the not-so-funny – “Envy” (2004) and the moderate “Duplex” (2003).

This time out, Stiller not only stars but also co-produces, co-writes and directs, so he has a lot riding on this venture.

Sharing the duties are Jack Black and Robert Downey Jr., each of whom appeared very successfully in his own summer action-hero kind of movie. OK, so Black’s was of the animated variety (“Kung Fu Panda”), but next to “The Dark Knight,” Downey seems to have the market cornered as the first one to rocket out of the gate with “Iron Man.”

By the way, Downey gets the biggest laughs in this: not just because of his makeup (you can’t even tell it’s him for a while), but his delivery is also so wry and self-absorbed that you, too, will be laughing out loud. Black is hysterical, and the three of them together is comedy heaven.

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The movie spoofs not just war movies, but also other action flicks. Stiller plays overly ripped, action-packed actor Tugg Speedman, which cracked me up – it’s as if his head were Photoshopped onto the rest of his body.

Black plays Jeff “Fats” Portnoy, who has a heroin problem that becomes less of one as soon as he realizes there are plenty of drug lords. I haven’t seen Black this funny since “School of Rock” (2003) and his groundbreaking, scene-stealing role in “High Fidelity” (2000).

But it’s Downey who steals the show as Aussie actor Kirk Lazarus, who is so wrapped up in his Method acting that he just can’t let go. All three actors need their movie to work and want it to be the Holy Grail of all war pictures. The problem is, they find themselves so involved with this that they don’t realize that they’re starring in a real-life war, in part because of budget constraints.

How funny is this movie? Well, I never laughed so hard out loud. All three stars are so funny. Adding to the overall humor and story are the tons of cameo appearances. Blink and you’ll miss at least three familiar faces. This is a must-see, so I’m glad it comes out Wednesday to separate it from the other weekend openings.

– Howie Nave is host/manager of The Improv comedy club inside Harveys and reviews films for seven radio stations throughout Northern California and Nevada, including Sirius Radio. He hosts “Howie’s Morning Rush” on Tahoe’s KRLT radio, and you can see his film reviews on “Howie’s Late Night Rush” Monday through Friday at midnight on RSN. For past reviews, blogs and audio clips, visit http://www.HowieNave.com.

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