Ben Stiller’s Tropic Thunder (2008) Hilarious or Bad Taste?

Before I knew what  Tropic Thunder was all about I saw it mentioned a few times on people’s Top 10 Favourite war movies lists. Aha?  And then I saw several really angry and infuriated reviews. Definitely a movie that polarizes. Those who love it think it’s genius, those who hate it think it is hateful, despicable, in bad taste and politically incorrect.

I actually think it is extremely funny. It’s a huge piss take and quite multilayered. Yes, it is vulgar and there is a lot of foul language and swearing but it has to be like that. That is part of the parody. There is a lot of swearing in some war movies, especially in the boot camp parts, so that had to be a theme.

Tropic Thunder foremost makes fun of the US Vietnam war movies (I guess there aren’t many others anyway), of the macho type gung-ho flicks à la Rambo as well as of the great movies like Platoon. These movies, as good as some of them are, live to a certain extent of stereotypes and stereotypes are great material for parodies.

The most important part in the movie however is the acting. The actors are absolutely outstanding. Ben Stiller playing a retard, Jack Black a dumb-ass comedy star, Nick Nolte as Vietnam vet gone writer, Robert Downey Jr as black Sgt and Tom Cruise as Jewish businessman who wants to make money, money, money.

There is nothing sacred in  this movie. Not the death scene from Platoon, nor the Vietnam vets who write books, nor the poor little Vietcong, black soldiers, handicapped people, you name it…

But despite all the piss taking and fun it has a story to offer.

In the middle of the Vietnamese forest a film crew tries to shoot the memoirs of a Vietnam vet. The shooting and acting isn’t going well and finally the vet suggests that the actors should be left on their own in the middle of the forest where they would have to fight for their survival. Unfortunately they land on the territory of a Vietnamese drug gang and things turn very nasty.

Tropic Thunder is a parody of the Vietnam war movie subgenre but also of film business in general.  Every element that is part of a Vietnam war movie, including the drugs, the swearing and the 60s music are made fun of.

Many people loved it for its special effects and an equal amount of people hated it for the special effects.

All in all its an exaggeration, a caricature, a parody and in outrageously bad taste but really funny.

If you don’t want to watch the whole movie, watch at least Tom Cruise dancing.

16 thoughts on “Ben Stiller’s Tropic Thunder (2008) Hilarious or Bad Taste?

  1. warmoviebuff says:

    Welcome to the dark side. Actually, much of the grief was due to misreading the movie’s intentions. Stliier was parodying Hollywood’s penchant to give awards to actors who play mentally or physically challenged people (like Sean Penn in “I Am Sam”). Downey’s character is a satire of actors who go overboard to get into character.

    What the hell is a “piss take”?

    • You need to learn British English! I had afeeling when reading the reviews many people didn’t get the message at all. I said it’s multilayered. You can see quite a lot of things in it. I never had the feeling he was making fun of people with a disability or anything like that.

  2. Novroz says:

    The actors collection is so varied, I mean Jack Black with Tom Cruise and RDJ? what an odd combination.

    A movie with 2 different public reactions sounds like a movie to watch, people need to judge it by themself.

    By the way, why are you questioning whether to review this film or not? (in your previous post)

  3. warmoviebuff says:

    Come on , Caroline. You sound like my wife. It is funny BECAUSE of the offensiveness, swearing, and vulgarness. LOL I am proud to admit that my wife found it funny (although she had to go to confession for liking it).

  4. warmoviebuff says:

    Now we have zeroed in on what I consider humor to be. Vulgur, nasty, and offensive. Not enough of those ingredients in No Man’s Land. Perhaps when the director’s cut comes out.

  5. Justin says:

    One of the actors says, you’re Australian, what do you know about Vietnam? I feel that this line mocks the Australian role in Vietnam. Australia was involved in Vietnam along with America and South Korea. Harold Holt went to Vietnam to curry favor with LBJ.
    I don’t understand the line of the movie. I’m not Australian, though. Australian troops were involved in Vietnam. I feel that the line belittles Australia. That’s just my opinion. “He’s saying that he’s Australian and you weren’t in it.” I remember in one of the theatrical trailers of the movie. Despite the fact that Australia was involved in Vietnam. So I don’t where Ben Stiller’s character comes up with that. I’m surprised no one has point out this goof in the film on any of the film critic sites.

    • You got a very good point here. I did a post on Austrlaian war movies a while back and there was one that I haven’t seen yet “The Odd Angry Shot” which depicts the Australian in Vientnam. On the other hand you never know with Tropic Thunder… Maybe it was another ironical comment and not a goof. Both are possible. But thanks, I didn’t pay attention to that line at all.

  6. Justin says:

    I think that the movie is also a satire of reality programming. I.e. Where the actors actually get shot like their Vietnam roles that they are playing. That’s also part of the movie is to be satire of reality programming. In its own way, the movie is criticizing reality shows as well.

    • That’s true and that is done quite well. I think one could write a much longer review on this movie, with many more angles. In any case it’s better than its reputation. Mayn people who hate it didn’t even bother to watch all of it.

  7. […] Tropic Thunder (2008) Bad taste and hilarious, in this movie nothing is sacred. A parody of war movies (especially Vietnam/Platoon), the film industry and a few other things. Cruise is extremely funny in this. He’s the ruthless greedy producer who is willing to send a film crew to certain death if success is guaranteed. (Here is my review) […]

  8. […] Tropic Thunder  (2008) US movie. Extremely funny although in dubious taste. (Here is my review) […]

  9. […] Tropic Thunder  (2008) US movie. Extremely funny although in dubious taste. (Here is my review) […]

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