Starring Ben Stiller, Robert Downey Jr., Jack Black, Tom Cruise, Steve Coogan
Created By Greg Berlanti, Marc Guggenheim
Ben stiller is one of those actors that I appreciate much more as a writer than in front of the camera. He’s clever and funny but I just don’t appreciate him as an actor, or at least I didn’t.
Tropic Thunder is another one of those movies about a group of people making a movie. That sort of storytelling is extremely clichéd and overdone so the concept alone requires something fairly stellar to make it interesting. Fortunately for Stiller, who wrote, directed, and stars in this film, there is something stellar here and it’s called Robert Downey Jr. He steals every single scene he’s in. Stiller also is as funny here as he’s ever been and Jack Black is there for the extremely silly bits.
In the film a group of actors are all hoping to revitalize their careers from different perspectives with this war movie. Stiller is the action star who’s done a failed film or two and is struggling to remain relevant and Black is the fart joke guy looking to be taken more seriously while Downey Jr. is the art house actor that takes each role extremely seriously. In an attempt to make the film more realistic the director takes the main cast into the forest to force them to truly live their roles. Little do they know though that the bullets being fired at them are real. They have made their way into an opium den.
The movie is easily the funniest of the year with very little down time. Every actor in the main cast gets a chance to shine which is no small triumph with actors like Stiller, Downey Jr., and Black on the film. Robert Downey Jr. owns this movie almost as solidly as he did Iron Man earlier in the year. Behind the camera Stiller does a surprisingly good job at homaging some of the over the top Canon Group action scenes from the early 80’s Vietnam films here as well as handling the comedy. I can’t go any further without mentioning the biggest surprise of the film: Tom Cruise. He disappears so deep into this film that you could easily watch I without recognizing him. Cruise is more funny here than in any other film to date. He almost seems to humble himself a bit in order to act silly for jokes and that’s refreshing. He gained major points for his role in this film, especially when it’s revealed in the bonus features that one of the funniest scenes in the film was his idea.
Fans of a mix of smart and silly comedy will love this film but fans of 80’s action movies will love it even more. The laughs have held up over multiple viewings too, which is not common for so many comedies. The only real issues with the film are that some of the side actors to Stiller and Downey Jr. don’t get to develop their characters enough. Steve Coogan has almost nothing to do and Black’s character has almost no depth. The complaints are minor though, a far second to just how entertaining this film is.
The 1080p presentation here is overall fantastic. Colors are well balanced and realistic and black levels are extremely deep. Detail is also incredible with the smallest nuance being easily visible. The only issues are that the contrast is so harsh that some brighter colors are slightly overblown and there’s a thin layer of grain running throughout the film. Again, this disc is gorgeous even with the above mentioned issues.
This TrueHD 5.1 presentation is appropriately bombastic fitting the kind of film Tropic thunder is spoofing. The sub woofer thumps with gunfire and explosions, music and ambient sounds reverberate constantly from the rear speakers, and dialogue comes through loud and clear over the top of everything. This Blu-Ray presentation is one of the best of the format.
The Packaging and Bonus Features
The packaging here is standard Blu-Ray with a variation on the marketing images for the film for a cover. All of the bonus features from the two disc standard DVD edition are here accept they’re all in hi def. Oddly a couple of the features are only available from BD-Live which means you won’t get ‘em if your player isn’t connected to the internet. This seems like a play to make buyers feel like they’re finally getting something from the internet functionality when in reality these bonus features could have been put on the disc.
First up is a crew commentary which features Ben Stiller and nearly every other primary player in the crew. This commentary is a hardcore “how the film was made” commentary that goes in depth into everything from casting to post production. This one’s for the film fan, not the comedy movie fan. It’s surprising that this level of attention to how this film was made is given here. Film fans will be happy with this one.
Next up is more of what you’d expect from a comedy film in the cast commentary. Ben stiller, Robert Downey Jr. and Jack Black come together to create a really entertaining commentary that still offers some insight into the making of the film. Downey Jr. is on fire here as he stays in character for the entire commentary.
Rain of Madness is a half hour long mockumentary that covers the making of the film within the film. There are nods aplenty to Hearts of Darkness, the documentary that covers the making of Apocalypse Now. This is worth a watch as it does feature some funny moments.
The Production Featurettes all together run nearly an hour and cover everything from casting to preproduction, special effects and make-up tests. Some of these featurettes feel cut off while others feel just a little long. The whole thing probably would have been more interesting had it been cut into a single feature length documentary, but that wouldn’t have created a long list for the back of the DVD boxes. There’s a lot of good stuff here though; cast interviews, crew interviews, behind the scenes footage, and more.
Deletions, Extensions, and Alternative Endings is a 20 minute collection of extended and deleted scenes. Most of these cuts needed to be done but there are a few laughs here making these scenes worth a look. The short introductions are good and the commentaries offer a bit more information on the scenes too.
Full Mags is a collection of outtakes that are funny and show just how much improvisation the actors were allowed to do. There’s also a short filmed for the MTV Movie Awards and the BD-Live content. Once on BD-Live there’s some rehearsal footage and some more deleted scenes and outtakes. Again this stuff was also originally available on the standard DVD so the placement here is all about marketing.
There’s a ton of bonus stuff here and it’s all in hi def which is the only thing that makes it stand above the standard releases. Some Blu-Ray exclusive stuff would have been great but what is here is all top notch.
Tropic Thunder was even funnier than I could have predicted and this Blu-Ray is absolutely the best way to watch the film at home.
Overall (Not an Average) 9/10
The Movie 9/10
The Video 9/10
The Audio 10/10
The Packaging and Bonus Features 8.5/10
Overall (Not an Average) 9/10