Today! Because the one man who made a difference five times before is about to make a difference again. Only this time, it’s different –
Tropic Thunder (2008)
Directed by Ben Stiller
Starring Ben Stiller (x2), Robert Downey Jr. (x10), Jack Black (x7), Jay Baruchel (x2), Brandon T. Jackson, Tom Cruise (x5), Nick Nolte (x4), Steve Coogan (x2), Matthew McConaughey (x2), Danny McBride, Bill Hader (x3), Brandon Soo Hoo, Reggie Lee, Maria Menounos, Christine Taylor, Tyra Banks, Tobey Maguire (x5), Yvette Nicole Brown, Jennifer Love Hewitt (x2), Jon Voight (x3), Lance Bass
Hang on a minute – a movie about movies and it was in the epic summer of 2008? There was no way Tropic Thunder wasn’t making this list, right? Maybe it seems a touch high to you? Are people still talking about this film a dozen years on? I think it’s safe to say that even though this movie isn’t all that old, it already feels like something that wouldn’t be made today. I mean, it’s got the universal comedic concept of egomaniac actors and how completely out of touch with reality they can be, but it also has legitimate black face throughout the movie, even if RDJ got nominated for an Oscar in the role. Could this get made right now, given the changes in the world over the past decade? I’d say maybe, but only a 50/50 chance.
Because the movie really does work hard to handle this issue as being actor ridiculousness, and not even remotely a cool thing to do. Brandon T. Jackson’s rapper-actor Alpa Chino is there half the time to keep Downey’s Kirk Lazarus in check, even as he effectively steals the movie. And while this character seems to popularly be the movie’s lasting cultural impact, it is stuffed with tremendous comedic turns – from Matthew McConaughey’s loopy agent Rick Peck to Danny McBride’s special effects expert Cody to Steve Coogan’s Brit director Damien Cockburn. Stiller’s work as over-the-top action hero Tugg Speedman is spot-on, but a touch thankless, as the nominal lead more or less swallowed in the plot, by being the de facto damsel in distress. Jack Black’s Jeff Portnoy gets largely overlooked, which I think is really unfair, as his typically hyper-invested work as this wacky, drug-addled Z-grade comedian delivers a bunch of great moments. And none of this is to ignore the literally amazing work of Tom Cruise, unrecognizably transformed into the vulgar uber-producer Les Grossman – by far the funniest role Cruise has ever played.