Year 2, Day 24 - 1/24/10 - Movie #389
BEFORE: What's the connection? Last night's film had a couple of fake monster-hunters forced to become real monster-fighters - so that leads me to a group of actors playing soldiers, in a similar situation. And I heard it's very meta...
THE PLOT: Through a series of freak occurrences, a group of actors shooting a big-budget war movie are forced to become the soldiers they are portraying.
AFTER: The concept is great, and the execution is hilarious - if completely unbelievable, though the movie manages to halt itself before completely devolving into an "Airplane"-like spoof. Still, though I usually hate movies about people making movies, this one has the intention of turning a bunch of Hollywood's cows into hamburgers - funny, funny hamburgers.
I think my favorite part of the film was the fake trailers at the beginning, which were there to give us some background on the lead characters. Tug Speedman (Ben Stiller) is shown in "Scorcher 6", an action movie about global warming that is so out of ideas the planet Earth is actually freezing over instead - Kirk Lazarus (Robert Downey Jr.) is seen in a trailer for "Satan's Alley", a sort of "Brokeback Mountain" with monks instead of cowboys - and Jeff Portnoy (Jack Black) in a trailer for "The Fatties, Fart 2" which is a direct dig at Eddie Murphy films like "Nutty Professor 2: the Klumps", where he plays all the members of a flatulent family. These faux trailers set the perfect tone for the movie, and accomplish more exposition in 3 minutes than a half-hour of dialogue would.
After that, the three stars are seen making the film-within-a-film "Tropic Thunder", and it's not going well - in 5 days of shooting, somehow the film is a month behind schedule, no thanks to an inept director (Steve Coogan) and an even more inept effects guy (Danny McBride). The film is based on a book (also called "Tropic Thunder") by grizzled Vietnam vet "Four Leaf" Tayback (Nick Nolte) and the name itself is even a parody of "Tropic Lightning", the nickname for the 25th infantry Army division.
While the movie shoots in Vietnam, back home Speedman's manager (Matthew McConnaughey) is fighting for his client's rights against movie mogul Les Grossman (Tom Cruise), who's aching to pull the plug on this project before it loses any more money. So the director and Tayback hatch a plan to airlift the actors into the middle of the jungle, which is rigged with hidden cameras and pyrotechnics, in order to get realistic footage of what a scared, desperate group of soldiers would look like.
Of course, things spiral out of control, in ways I won't spoil here - but sometimes it's a delight to see things go so terribly, terribly wrong. And along the way, the film finds ways to parody "Platoon", "Apocalypse Now", "The Deer Hunter", "Saving Private Ryan", and countless others. And as mentioned, the actors are forced to act like real soldiers, following the fake movie's plot in order to rescue one of their own from militant heroin dealers.
The movie walks a fine line with Robert Downey Jr.'s portrayal of Kirk Lazarus, an Australian actor who undergoes a "pigmentation operation" in order to look African-American. As a method actor, Lazarus gets so far into his role, he manages to forget who he really is, and one has to wonder about a guy playing a guy playing a guy playing a guy... (yeah, that's right.)
Plus there's plenty of indirect digs at Hollywood - Tom Cruise is almost unrecognizable as Les Grossman, a paunchy, balding movie executive with a potty-mouth. It's funny, but maybe hits a bit TOO close to the mark... Plus there are satires of actors who play retarded roles, never fully read scripts, and are addicted to drugs. Jack Black's portrayal of Jeff Portnoy as a Chris Farley-type also hits a bit too close to home.
Also starring Jay Baruchel ("Undeclared"), Bill Hader (SNL, "Superbad"), with cameos from Tyra Banks, Jon Voight, Lance Bass, Tobey Maguire, and Kevin Pollak
RATING: 7 out of 10 cans of "Booty Sweat"