First: Ernest Borgnine on the Secret to Old Age.
No commentary required. Yes, it's a clip from FOX & Friends, but it's only 45 seconds. Just watch.
Well goddamn did I love TROPIC THUNDER.
It's far from perfect, mind you. Many critics have observed the half-baked subplots that don't get fleshed out like they should, while others have said the satire just plain didn't have the guts to go far enough. It's sort of like how I feel about V FOR VENDETTA: they were so close, it's kinda maddening that they don't go all the way. The two best reviews I've read on this matter are Mr. Beaks'
and Joyless Bastard Devin
, who explore these ideas better than I can. Perhaps they read too much into a summer comedy, but when said summer comedy skims the boundaries of becoming (and failing to become) an outright classic, such criticism is well earned.
But even when it doesn't pull off the satire or story completely, it's still usually fucking hilarious. There are so many moments here that make me giggle just thinking about them.
The only weak spot is Stiller once again playing Stiller. Beaks is right, Stiller and Matthew McConaughey (what a perfect--even superior--choice in lieu of Owen Wilson) should have switched roles. Better yet, Stiller should have gone with his original stunt-casting idea and cast Keanu Reeves in his role, or at least an actual character actor to riff on themselves the way Jack Black and Robert Downey Jr. do so well here. Hell... he should have given the role to Tom Cruise.
Is Cruise's role a brilliant cameo stretched out too long to SNL-levels? Probably, but I'm not complaining. At first, I thought it was kinda one-note and uncomfortable, but maaaaan, the scene with him dancing like Satan with Bill Hader as his Mephistopheles had my jaw open in awe.
But this, unsurprisingly, is truly Downey's movie. Unlike Stiller and Black, who always have their comedy faces on (and I fear I'd be much the same kind of actor), Downey never once loses his footing in reality, no matter how ridiculous or absurd his character becomes. When he says, in that gloriously mangled "black" accent (the best/worst of its kind since Halle Berry in X-MEN), "I'm a dude playin' a dude disguised as another dude!" it's so true. The layers and levels of Downey's performance are delicious to watch, especially with all the stuff about Method acting, which of course is utterly delightful to me.
One neat thing about this group of outlandish characters is that there're actually a diminishing levels of straight men in the group. Downey is Stiller's straight man, the one who realizes, "Wait, this shit is fucked up," while Brandon T. Jackson is Downey's straight man (so to speak), between scenes of playing a marketing-whore rapper. I love Devin's observation of how "Both characters are pretending to be the black men they aren't, and I think there's a lot of clever commentary going on there." But the core straight man is Jay Baruchel, who has a real gift for natural delivery and wit. I'm definitely gonna keep an eye out for him when I finally watch FREAKS AND GEEKS.
Going into the film, I was expecting to see a (funny) rehash of THREE AMIGOS or, god help us, DELTA FARCE, maybe a bit in the style of HOT FUZZ or something. Instead, what this really reminded me of is GALAXY QUEST, and once the association clicked, I think I loved it even more. Yeah, I think it'd be safe to call it GALAXY QUEST meets THE PLAYER (lite) in terms of how it riffs on Hollywood politics and--especially--the pretensions of actors, method or otherwise.
Is it perfect? Hell no. For all tastes? GOD no. Is it as smart as it could have been? Regrettably no. But there's so much going on there that I could easily go on and on about all the lines, characters, and moment that have still stuck with me. And did I mention it was fucking hilarious? Because it's fucking hilarious. In terms of Stiller movies, it's currently neck and neck with ZOOLANDER, but that may change. We'll see if TROPIC THUNDER also holds up to repeat viewings.