With "Tropic Thunder," actor Ben Stiller reprises a role he hasn't played since 2001: director. Having conquered the comic world of male models with his last hit "Zoolander," Stiller turns to poke fun at the industry responsible for his own fame. Though "Tropic Thunder" isn't as zany or quotable as "Zoolander," it's an accessible comedy about the movie business that boasts an all-star cast and proves undeniably entertaining. Plus, it just may have saved Tom Cruise's career.
Films about Hollywood are risky undertakings since it is all too easy to fall into the trap of making your film difficult to understand for outsiders. Barry Levinson's "What Just Happened?" failed to connect with audiences at both the Sundance and Cannes Film Festival this year. <i>Tropic Thunder</i>, thankfully, is more concerned with making us laugh than really getting under Hollywood's skin.<i>Tropic Thunder</i>, the comic version of <i>Hearts of Darkness</i>, the documentary about the seemingly endless troubles encountered in the Vietnam jungle by the cast and crew of "Apocalypse Now," satirizes actors and acting, agents and studio execs, writers, trailers and the entire Hollywood machine.
Viewers are introduced to these star caricatures through promos and trailers for their own ridiculous products: rapper Alpa Chino (Brandon T. Johnson) promotes his "Booty Sweat" energy drink and "Bust-A-Nut" candy bar while singing his hit single "I Love Tha' Pussy". Action star Tugg Speedman (Ben Stiller) is featured in a trailer for his latest film, "Scorcher VI: Global Meltdown;" clips from the previous five "Scorcher" movies are so repetitive that even the voice-over guy for the trailer seems skeptical. Comic actor Jeff "Fatty" Portnoy (Jack Black) appears playing the entire cast of his flatulent franchise "The Fatties: Fart 2" Eddie Murphy-style. Finally Australian actor and five-time Oscar winner Kirk Lazarus (Robert Downey Jr.) is introduced in a trailer for "Satan's Alley," depicting two monks (the other played by Tobey Maguire) who begin a passionate but sinful affair.