Movie Reviews

DVD Review: “Tropic Thunder (Unrated Director’s Cut)”

(Paramount. 2008. 122 minutes. 2 Discs. Directed by Ben Stiller.) Robert Downey, Jr. (Kirk Lazarus), Jack Black (Jeff Portnoy), Ben Stiller (Tugg Speedman), Brandon T. Jackson (Alpa Chino), Danny McBride (Cody), Jay Baruchel (Kevin Sandusky), Steve Coogan (Damien Cockburn), Nick Nolte (Four Leaf Tayback), Bill Hader (Rob Slolom), Tom Cruise (Les Grossman). Music by Theodore Shapiro.

Middling satire has some good moments and performances. Five pampered actors on the set of a Vietnam-War movie are thrust by their director (Coogan) into real-life danger and are forced to become the fighting unit they’re portraying in order to survive. Downey’s character, a white Australian, undergoes a hyperpigmentation treatment to play a jive-talking black American; it’s more silly than offensive. I liked Brandon T. Jackson as “Alpa Chino” but thought Jack Black was pretty much wasted here. Amazingly, I didn’t recognize (uncredited) Tom Cruise as the foul-mouthed studio boss until the end of the movie, and I even knew he was in it! Movie is best experienced if you know what’s being spoofed, as you’ll miss the many references to Apocalypse Now, etc. (There’s a fascinating story in Hearts of Darkness, the documentary about Francis Ford Coppola’s experience shooting Apocalypse.) The phony trailers and commercials which you saw in the theatre pre-feature are included here; still not that funny. Second disc has plenty of extras, including faux documentaries (“Rain of Madness”), an alternate ending, and video rehearsals.