I saw this film in theaters on opening weekend with a few friends. I wasn’t expecting more than a few laughs and ended up being pretty surprised.

Tropic Thunder, with Ben Stiller and Robert Downey Jr

Action film star Tugg Speedman (Ben Stiller), Oscar winning dramatic actor Kirk Lazarus (Robert Downey Jr.), and gross out comedy star Jeff Portnoy (Jack Black) come together to make the movie within this movie, also entitled Tropic Thunder. The film’s shoot in Vietnam is hemorrhaging money and after an ultimatum is passed down from the studio head (Tom Cruise, in a hysterical cameo) the novice director (Steve Coogan) acts upon the advice of Vietnam vet Four Leaf Tayback (Nick Nolte) and drops his cast into the middle of the jungle to shoot the film guerrilla style. Stranded with no food or cell phones, the actors happen upon a drug ring and when Tugg is captured he continues to believe that it is all part of the film. The movie made for some really great laughs, especially the insider jokes that poked fun at the industry (I love when the studio head calls upon the key grip to punch the director in the face). Matthew McConaughey is random and surprisingly funny as Rick Peck, Tugg’s agent and while Tom Cruise’s cameo is definitely good for laughs it still doesn’t improve his image for me. Nice try though. All in all, the film was hysterical in theaters, but when I saw this movie again on DVD without the audience laughing along I didn’t find to be as humorous. But, Robert Downey is definitely the stand out amongst the celeb driven cast, which is why we even find this here in the first place.

Nominations:

Best Supporting Actor – Robert Downey Jr.
This nomination seems to me to be honoring his latest rise from the ashes, rather than this particular role. Everyone loved him in Ironman, but there was no way he’d see a Best Actor nod for that. Originally The Soloist should have been his Oscar bait for the year, but I’m guessing it didn’t turn out as great as they had hoped for because the moment buzz starting generating for this role they pushed it off the 2008 schedule. Here he played a controversial role with grace, all while channeling and poking fun of some of Oscar’s favorite heavyweights (Russell Crowe, Heath Ledger). I understand why he’s here, but I wish it had been for a different reason, possibly even a different year. RDJ is such a fantastic actor that I’d rather see him get nominated in a year he has a chance at winning and not to fill the slots of people who will lose to Heath Ledger. And I know I’ve said it before, but there were certainly performances this year that were more deserving.

***½