Sure, it’s easy for Hollywood to lampoon itself, but a truly elevated film uses the Hollywood satire itself for some larger social comment. Consider Tropic Thunder. Robert Downey Jr.’s eerily convincing Jim Brown impersonation as the black-faced Oscar winner eviscerates the method actor pretension of award-hogs (“I don’t read the script; the script reads me.”) Jack Black nails the Eddie Murphy-like impresarios of fart jokes who become live-action Terence and Phillips. Ben Stiller goes after that limited-talent Hollywood genre film actor yearning to be a “legitimate artist” by playing a mentally challenged person (“We’ve gotta shave your head and get back on those monkey bars.”). Throw in Matthew McConaughey as a Tivo-worshipping agent and Tom Cruise as Sumner Redstone, and there’s ten dollars worth of hilarity.
I couldn’t help wondering, though, whether Stiller’s attack of Hollywood’s obsession with Vietnam had a subtle subtext. The zeal with which Damien Cockburn (Steve Coogan) thrusts his crew into harm’s way, pressured to go on an adventure he’s clearly not ready for…what would Oliver Stone make of all this? Tropic Thunder has a Team America vibe that amplifies the jokes makes this a four-star satire.
2 Hearts of Darkness: A Filmmaker’s Apocalypse + 2 Ari Gold = 4 Tropic Thunder