Oh, what a lovely war movie Ben Stiller and his platoon have concocted in "Tropic Thunder." Stiller -- who stars, directs, co-writes, co-produces and probably acts as animal wrangler as well -- imagines a lost patrol of self-absorbed yet terminally insecure actors working on a war movie to end all war movies in Southeast Asia only to wind up in a real-life combat with narco-terrorists.
"Tropic Thunder" sends up all things Hollywood, from pampered actors and outrageous media tycoons to war movies in general. OK, these are easy targets. But Stiller and co-writers Justin Theroux and Etan Cohen hit 'em with a fair degree of accuracy and consistency.
After a summer devoted to superheroes -- indeed, Stiller's co-stars Robert Downey Jr. and Jack Black played superheroes in "Iron Man" and "Kung Fu Panda" -- how gratifying it is to experience a movie taking the mickey out of super-impossible heroics.
It's by no means a perfect comedy -- nor would you want it to be. Gags and stunts are all over the place, yet the film does de-Stiller-erize the essence of contemporary movie comedy even as it has fun with outrageously crude jokes. "Tropic Thunder" should give mid-August a strong shot of boxoffice caffeine.
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