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In the action-comedy "Tropic Thunder," Ben Stiller plays pampered action superstar Tugg Speedman, who is cast in the biggest, most expensive war movie ever produced. He sets out to Southeast Asia with a "Who's Who" of celebrity co-stars. They include Kirk Lazarus (Robert Downey Jr.), an intense, three-time Oscar(R)-winning actor; Jeff Portnoy (Jack Black), star of the popular gross-out comedy franchise "The Fatties"; multi-platinum hip-hop-star-turned-entrepreneur-turned-actor Alpa Chino (Brandon T. Jackson); and first-timer Kevin Sandusky (Jay Baruchel). Soon after the production begins the actors are thrown into a real-life situation and are forced to become the fighting unit they're portraying, in order to find a way out of the jungle in one piece.
2008 is the summer of Robert Downey Jr. After lingering for years in amazing, critically praised movies that no one will ever see, Robert Downey Jr. is taking his considerable acting talents and using them to cash big paychecks. But he’s Robert Downey Jr., and just because he’s doing a summer blockbuster for big cash doesn’t mean he’s pulling a Brendan Fraser. Even when working for Hollywood in its most popcorn of seasons, RDJ has gone out of his way to pick the riskiest, most interesting roles the big studios have to offer.
First audiences will catch him in Iron Man as a superhero. But not just any superhero. An alcoholic superhero arms dealer. Then they’ll see him in a Ben Stiller comedy, but not just any Ben Stiller comedy, a Ben Stiller comedy in which, Robert Downey basically spends the entire movie in blackface. RDJ just can’t stop taking risks.
What’s more, his blockbuster gambles seem entirely capable of paying off. Tropic Thunder looks hilarious, like a modern day Three Amigos!, and I mean that in the best possible way (hey Chevy Chase used to be funny). Early test screening audience reviews have been extremely positive and word is that Downey’s blackface character works, in a way that’s almost impossibly, completely inoffensive. This thing may actually be funny, something that’s all too rare in a Ben Stiller movie.
Speaking of Ben, with Tropic Thunder he returns to writing and directing for the first time since Zoolander. Like his previous directorial efforts, this one looks to step outside the lines of what’s in vogue with comedy. Most of the biggest comedic blockbusters in past years have either been parodies or relationship comedies. Tropic Thunder fits into neither category, and funny or not at least it seems determined to do its own damned thing.