Shauna Farnell
Vail, CO, Colorado

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August 21, 2008
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'Tropic Thunder' painfully unfunny

One humorless joke never touched upon in "Tropic Thunder" is how, if this were a real film, delivered to real critics who appreciate real comedy, every single one of the stars in it would be out of work afterward. A lot of people appear to have missed that one, though.

Otherwise, the broad spectrum of unfunny "humor" is pretty much covered. "Tropic Thunder" might be the worst comedy ever made, but the movie industry seems to be OK with that since everyone in Hollywood is in bed together and since the casting of Tinseltown's most strapping, so-called comedians is enough to make for a blockbuster hit.

Seriously, it's almost unfathomable that this film has gotten such positive feedback. The only reasonable explanation is that some critics find the mere presence of renowned funny men like Ben Stiller, Matthew McConaughey and Jack Black, paired with celebrities like Robert Downey Jr. and Tom Cruise to be sufficient. Or, maybe they're being bribed or blackmailed.

The plot of "Tropic Thunder" goes like this ... In one corner, we have Stiller (the film's star, director and writer). He plays a semi washed up Hollywood actor in need of a career-rekindling blockbuster. Ironic, right? His agent (McConaughey) has landed him the lead role in a war movie that takes place in " how clever " Vietnam. In the other corner we have the other "make believe" struggling actors trying to get their break and/or return to the map of talent. As army squadrons go in war movies, this one has its typecasts. There's the junkie soldier (Black) who can't stop eating laced jellybeans, the black soldier (Brandon T. Jackson), the fake black soldier (this is supposed to be hilarious) played by Mr. Downey Jr. (you, sir, are lucky to have landed "Iron Man."). Then there's the skinny, geeky soldier played by Jay Baruchel. Oh yeah ... even Nick Nolte stoops into this movie as the scruffy veteran who inspires the war movie.

When the group of actor/soldiers is delivered to its jungle location, the director of the movie "disappears" and the pack of characters finds itself in "real" danger. They're tracked by Vietnamese drug farmers/commandos and the goofy boys end up in some sticky and slapsticky situations. The problem is ... they're just not that funny.

It'd be great if any of the inside jokes poking fun at the movie industry were laughable, but they're not. The only chuckles (or chuckle noises) the movie inspires are scoffs at just how incredulously unfunny it is.

For what must be shock value alone, Cruise makes an appearance as a balding Hollywood agent who is, at one point, shrieking insults to the Vietnamese who are making ransom requests. It's dumb ... but not funny.

This movie is worth seeing only if you want to see a lot of famous faces get dirty and dopey. Ben Stiller's lucky he has so many friends. How he talked them into doing this movie? ... It's a puzzle.

Shauna Farnell is freelance writer based in Vail. E-mail comments about this review to cschnell@vaildaily.com.


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The VailDaily Updated Aug 21, 2008 01:58PM Published Aug 21, 2008 01:58PM Copyright 2008 The VailDaily. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.