The full list of films at this year’s Toronto International Film Festival (a.k.a. TIFF) was released this week. During the festival, I will try my best to update this blog with reviews of the films I see. I will do a full recap, of all 30 plus films, at the end of the festival. The Toronto International Film Festival runs from September 4 to 13. For more info on the festival, be sure to stop by there website (listed in the side bar)
Based on the early trailers, I went into Tropic Thunder thinking that I was either going to: a) be greatly offended, b) end up laughing hysterically. While the casting was intriguing, the thought of Robert Downey Jr. in “black face” just did not sit well. Yet I decided to give the film a shot at proving its merits…and boy did it ever. Tropic Thunder is the only recent satire I can remember since “Borat” to consistently deliver on the big laughs. The movie is basically “Heart of Darkness” meets “The Player” with a whole lot of crude humor mixed in between. The film follows three very diverse film actors brought together to make a Platoon-style war film. When egos and budget gets too big, the actors are sent off into the jungle for a rugged guerrilla style film shoot. Unfortunately the men are dropped off in a hostile area, and the lines between fiction and reality quickly become blurred. Through the ingenious use of trailers at the beginning of the movie, we are introduced to action star Tugg Speedman (Ben Stiller), comedic guru Jeff Portnoy (Jack Black), and five time academy award winning method actor Kirk Lazarus (Downey Jr.). In the brief two-minute clips we pretty much learn all we need to know about these men. The faux trailers also help to establish the tone of the film from the get go.
While the premise of the film is rather silly, Tropic Thunder is more concerned with the jabs at Hollywood than it is about plot and character development. In this regards Tropic Thunder is a flying success. There are so many digs at the entertainment industry that the movie actually begs for multiple viewings just to catch them all. Tropic Thunder ferociously comments on such things as: Hollywood blockbuster, escalating budgets, ruthless studio heads, the merits of method acting, rappers turned actors, juvenile comedies, celebrity adoptions, Academy Award winners, spineless agents, drug addiction, race, etc. With so many insider jokes, this film could have easily been one big self-congratulatory mess. Fortunately, thanks to the strong writing of Stiller, Etan Cohen, and Justin Theroux (Mulholland Dr., Charles Angels: Full Throttle), Tropic Thunder stays away from that realm and hits all the right satirical notes. Credit should also go to the three leads, especially Downey Jr. who steals every scene he is in, for keeping the film on track. While Robert Downey Jr. is the standout amongst the leads, it is nearly impossible to neglect the wonderful supporting cast (e.g. Steve Coogan, Nick Nolte, Jay Baruchel, Brandon T. Jackson, Tom Cruise, Bill Hader, Matthew McConaughey, and Danny McBride). These supporting players bring so many hilarious moments to the film that it is hard to think of humorous scenes in which at least one, or two, of them are not in it.
Hollywood has released a string of adult-oriented comedies of late in an attempt to cash-in on the wave that Apatow and crew have been riding. Yet unlike most of the recent comedies, such as Pineapple Express, Tropic Thunder has the distinction of providing plenty of satirical laughs that actually stay with you long after you have left the theatres.