Stiller-directed film void of thunderous laughs

By Ricky Simpson

Tropic Thunder

Starring Robert Downey Jr., Ben Stiller, Jack Black

A Vietnam-based comedy? Robert Downey Jr. as a black guy? Ben Stiller playing a halfway competent person? Say what you want, but if nothing else, you can’t say this DreamWorks picture isn’t original.

In the thick of the Vietnam jungle, decorated actor Kirk Lazarus (Downey Jr.) is teamed up with wilting star Tugg Speedman (Stiller) and degenerate actor Jeff Portnoy (Jack Black) for an ultra drama bio-pic, “Tropic Thunder.” Ego collisions and juvenile dispositions prove to be too much for the high budget picture as the cast nearly takes down production.

With no time to spare, young director Damien (Steve Coogan) sends the cast into the jungle to fend for themselves to bring them down to earth. As expected the cast navigates themselves into a heated area full of gunfire and explosions.

I will give the plot high points for originality and excellent characterization, but the flaw in this bizarre comedy is the fact that it is simply not that funny. With a plot that makes you want to watch, this script could have benefited from another writer’s input with some real comedic wit.

Still, the characters in this flick stand out, allowing a superstar cast to flex their muscles at will and have some fun outside the proverbial box. Downey Jr. is a scene snatcher with his grumbling adaptation of a black solider. His banter with Brandon T. Jackson (who is actually Black) is the closest you get to a laugh. Millionaire producer Les Grossman, played by Tom Cruise, is at first non-recognizable and shoots through the screen as the power playing, abrasive millionaire and is noteworthy in his epic rants.

Even though the quotable jokes and memorable moments are M.I.A. in this comedic war-pic, this Stiller-directed film is a middle of the road comedy with good acting and might be worth a DVD rental on its release.

Grade: C

Playing At: Cinemark Fayette Mall, Regal Hamburg Pavilion, Movies 10 Codell Drive, Lexington Movie Tavern

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