Ben Stiller’s 2008 action comedy satire Tropic Thunder is a comedy with satirical overtones. Stiller, Jack Black, Robert Downey Jr., Jay Baruchel, and Brandon T. Jackson play prima donna actors who are producing a Vietnam War movie in the movie.
Their acting prowess becomes their only means of survival when their director abandons them in the midst of a forest. Many well-known war films are parodied in Tropic Thunder, especially those that concentrate on the Vietnam War. Along with Bill Hader, Danny McBride, Matthew McConaughey, Nick Nolte, and Tom Cruise, the cast also features Danny McBride.
Producers Stuart Cornfeld, Ben Stiller, and Eric McLeod gave the movie the go-ahead in 2006. Kauai, a Hawaiian island, was the location for thirteen weeks of filming in 2007. On August 13, 2008, Tropic Thunder became available in America. Positive comments were made about the actor’s performances, storyline, and fake trailers.
The portrayal of the mentally challenged and the use of blackface, however, sparked outrage. Before it was made available on home media on November 18, 2008, the movie had earned more than $195 million worldwide. It debuted at the top of the American box office and held that position for three weeks. Downey and Cruise each got nominations for a Golden Globe Award, while Downey was also considered for an Academy Award, a BAFTA Award, and a Screen Actors Guild Award.
Tropic Thunder had a sneak preview at the 2008 San Diego Comic-Con, two weeks before it made its formal debut on August 11, 2008, at the Mann Village Theatre in Westwood, California, and two days before it was widely released. Disability advocacy groups protested the film’s depiction of intellectual disability by staging pickets prior to the screening.
Tropic Thunder Movie Plot
Tropic Thunder is a film adaption of John “Four Leaf” Tayback’s autobiography. All of the leading roles are played by established actors, with the exception of debutant supporting actor Kevin Sandusky. Damien Cockburn, the novice director, is unable to control the performers, which leads to the wasting of a million-dollar pyrotechnics scene. Les Grossman, a studio executive, delivers Cockburn the following ultimatum: “Get the cast under control, or the movie will be terminated.”
In accordance with Four Leaf’s recommendation, Damien places the actors in the heart of the jungle while concealing cameras and using manufactured explosions for special effects. The actors are equipped with blank-firing weapons as well as a map and a scenario list that will direct them to a chopper waiting at the end of the trip. The actors are shocked as Damien is blown up after stepping on an old land mine. They are assured that filming is still going on by Tugg, who thinks Damien staged his death to motivate the group to provide greater performances. Even though he isn’t persuaded, Kirk decides to follow them on their walk out of the forest.
Flaming Dragon captures Cody Underwood, the pyrotechnics operator, and Four Leaf. Tugg thinks he is the leading man in their beloved movie, the commercial failure Simple Jack. He is made to reenact it by the group multiple times every day, which brainwashes him. Kirk grows to believe that their safety is in danger due to Tugg’s incompetence.
Les threatens to kill Flaming Dragon when Flaming Dragon answers a call from Flaming Dragon demanding a ransom for Tugg. Les is excited about the possibility of receiving a sizable insurance claim if Tugg dies rather than saving Tugg, which is why he is uninterested in doing so. In the meantime, Rick “Pecker” Peck approaches Les regarding a clause in Tugg’s contract that isn’t being met and entitles him to a TiVo.
The heroin factory of Flaming Dragon is found in the movie by Kirk, Alpa, Jeff, and Kevin. They prepare a rescue effort in accordance with the movie’s plot after seeing Tugg being tormented. Kirk poses as a farmer who is hauling a “caught” Jeff behind a water buffalo. The actors start a fire once they realize their cover has been broken, tricking the gang members into giving up.
In order to reach Underwood’s helicopter, the four actors find Four Leaf, Underwood, and Tugg, then cross a bridge that has been set up to explode. Tugg initially stays behind, considering Flaming Dragon to be his “family,” but he later flees while being pursued by an enraged mob. Tugg is saved by Four Leaf demolishing the bridge, but as the chopper takes off, the gang leader fires an RPG at it. They are saved when Rick unexpectedly emerges from the forest and launches a TiVo box in the rocket’s path. As the credits roll, Les dances to Ludacris’ “Get Back” to bring the movie to a close. The movie is a huge hit and gives Tugg his first Academy Award.
Tropic Thunder Lead Cast
In the parody of the long-running summer action movie series Scorcher VI: Global Meltdown, Ben Stiller plays Tugg Speedman. His career has stagnated despite him formerly being the highest-paid and highest-grossing action movie star ever, thanks to the Scorcher trilogy. After receiving unfavorable press for his depiction in Simple Jack, he decides to play Four Leaf Tayback in an effort to revive his career.
A movie-within-a-movie about a family who adores farting, The Fatties: Fart two stars Jack Black, as Jeff Portnoy. Films that frequently feature toilet humor, particularly jokes about flatulence, are noted for having several roles played by a drug-addicted comedian-actor. He portrays Fats, a gruff soldier who worries that his farts are the main reason people think he’s an actor. Eddie Murphy’s portrayals of various characters in movies like Nutty Professor II: The Klumps are parodied in the movie’s trailer.
Robert Downey Jr.
Robert Downey Jr. portrays Kirk Lazarus. In order to temporarily darken his complexion for his depiction of the black character, Lazarus, an Australian method actor and five-time Academy Award winner, underwent a contentious procedure called a “pigmentation change.” Lazarus solely utilizes African American Vernacular English and won’t talk outside of character until he has recorded the DVD commentary for a particular scene. In a parody of Brokeback Mountain and Downey’s own sequences with Tobey Maguire in Wonder Boys, Lazarus’s fake trailer, Satan’s Alley, is about 2 gay monks in a 12th-century Irish monastery.
The movie-within-a-movie is based on Nick Nolte’s book Tropic Thunder, which he authored after appearing as Four Leaf Tayback in a fictional memoir about his experience fighting in Afghanistan. Nolte also portrayed Four Leaf Tayback in World War Two. In order to make actors appear and feel like troops trapped in a foreign country, he advises putting them in the middle of a jungle.
Tropic Thunder Filming Locations
Kauai, a Hawaiian island, served as the location for Tropic Thunder’s filming. Universal Studios in Hollywood provided the sets for the Los Angeles and interior sequences. Using boats, helicopters, and all-terrain vehicles, Stiller spent more than 25 hours over a period of six weeks exploring the island. In order to make the players appear and feel like troops trapped in a foreign country, he advises putting the actors in the middle of a jungle.
The first significant studio production on Kauai in five years was Tropic Thunder. Both privately owned land and locations with conservation status were used for a large portion of the filming. A helicopter-based aerial unit and two ground-based units fired shots at the island at the same time. Rain and illumination problems caused by the variable weather made filming difficult.
Actors received training in hand-to-hand combat and tactical maneuvers from former members of the U.S. military, as well as instruction on how to utilize their weapons. Fifty stuntmen were needed for the three-week-long filming of the opening conflict scenario. The appropriate camera angles for the movie were planned out using animatics.
Tropic Thunder Controversy
Disability advocacy groups denounced Tropic Thunder. On August 4, Simple Jack’s website was taken down because of complaints from a number of organizations about how it portrayed intellectual disability. DreamWorks’ spokeswoman responded, “We heard their complaints, and we appreciate that the site looked to be disrespectful to people with disabilities when taken out of context.
” The Special Olympics and the American Arc, among other disability advocacy organizations, raised concerns about the film’s frequent use of the word “retard” in their coalition. DreamWorks offered to show the movie to the groups on August 8, so they could assess whether it still angered them. To coincide with the August 11 debut, the screening was rescheduled.
Representatives from the organizations protested outside the movie’s premiere after they went to the private screening and were offended by its content. According to Special Olympics chairman Timothy Shriver, “This community already struggles with the necessities too much to have to contend with Hollywood. By doing this, we are letting everyone know that hate speech is no longer allowed.”
The treatment of people with mental disorders was reportedly weaved throughout the plot of the movie, according to disability groups and others who saw the previews. Disability rights activists pleaded with viewers to avoid the movie, alleging it was degrading to persons with mental disorders and would increase bullying. Ben Stiller justified the movie as being satirical of performers who play cognitively challenged or autistic roles, such as Dustin Hoffman in Rain Man and Tom Hanks in Forrest Gump.
Without directly addressing the complaint, a DreamWorks spokeswoman stated that Tropic Thunder “is an R-rated comedy that satirizes Hollywood and its excesses” and “makes its point by featuring outrageous and over-the-top characters in preposterous circumstances.” Although none of the film’s sequences were altered as a result of the resistance, the advertisement for the movie was changed. In the special features of the director’s cut of the DVD but not the Blu-ray, there is a PSA that advises against using the word “retard” in casual conversation.
The fact that Robert Downey Jr. played a white Australian actor who used brownface/blackface as part of his manner of portraying an African-American man garnered criticism and warnings before the film’s release. In his reply, he noted that blackface was being worn in order to highlight how inappropriate it was. Others have noted that actual African-Americans addresses the improperness of blackface inside the film itself and that the film’s finale hinges on Downey Jr. giving up his method of acting; in this sense, the film mocks—rather than embraces—both blackface and the outrageous and excessive things method actors occasionally do for their roles.
Even before Sarah Silverman popularised the phrase in 2008, critics had already referred to Ben Stiller’s portrayal as “Jewface.” Anti-Semitic claims have been made over how the movie portrays the Jewish character Les Grossman. Jewface, according to some, was a “riff on the practice of blackface and is nowhere near its counterpart.” The fact that the film’s director, Ben Stiller, is Jewish is noteworthy. Les Grossman’s final appearance, including the use of Tom Cruise as a second villain, the character’s hairiness, and his “fat hands,” is said to have been largely a result of his influence.
Tropic Thunder Critical Reviews
Tropic Thunder has received favorable reviews from critics. One called it “a successful late summer comedy,” and another praised Robert Downey Jr. for his “unforgettable” performance. Based on reviews from 252 reviewers, Rotten Tomatoes gives the movie an 82% approval rating. The movie received a weighted average rating of 71 out of 100 on Metacritic, which tallies reviews from prominent critics. The movie acquired positive reviews from critics and spectators alike, with one praising Robert Downey Jr. and Tom Cruise’s “out-there comedy adventures.”
Another person described the movie as “scattered” and “over-the-top grisliness” when it was humorous. The antics of Downey and Cruise were described as “very shallow, repetitious, and one-note” by reviewer Todd McCarthy.
Initial reviews were favorable, with one calling the movie “intermittently funny yet completely pompous and spiteful.” Another person described it as “an assault masquerading as a comedy—watching it is like being robbed by a clown.” When compared to Stiller’s prior movie, Zoolander, it was rated far higher by critic Roger Ebert (2001). They were described as “funny” by Newsweek’s David Ansen and as “the greatest part of the vacation” by Associated Press’ Christy Lemire. The humor in the trailers, according to Robert Wilonsky of The Village Voice, “resides in the region of the obvious, easy chuckle.”
According to critic Scott Feinberg, there is no situation in which a blackface performance would be appropriate. Logan Hill protested against Cruise’s cameo, stating that he appeared “a little confused and almost sad — shucking and jiving.” The epithet “retard” was used to describe Robert Downey Jr.’s character in the movie Tropic Thunder, and critics have reacted to this. The video is just sophomoric enough to offend, according to Duane Dudek of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. “Discerning audiences will realize where the humor is focused, and they’ll be laughing too hard to take offense,” Christian Toto of The Washington Times countered the argument made by the opponents.