Tropic Thunder (2008)
Ben Stiller's output as a comedy director has been more effort than quality, and I was disappointed to find that the same goes for his latest film, Tropic Thunder. Although the screenplay is a collaboration with the talented Justin Theroux and another individual who isn't the man you'd hope he would be (based on the nominal similarity), there is not a lot of funny dialogue, one-liners or anecdotes in this fastpaced, lowbrow film. There is parody, yes, but parodies on contemporary and often high-quality films has become a blind alley for comedy filmmakers in recent years. What the Zucker/Abrahams/Zucker team did with Airplane! in 1980 was new, fresh and, last but not least, well-aimed, seeing that the film spoofed, Airport, had been a big-budget failure. In wake of the high output of badly scripted parodies in recent years, the sting has completely gone from this sub-genre, and Tropic Thunder is unfortunately not close to turning this table.
The characterizations are what works in Tropic Thunder - as amusing digressions, so to speak. This is all down to acting, however, and minimal writing or filmmaking. Robert Downey Jr. is innovative and technically impressive in his role as an actor playing a black sergeant, and both Tom Cruise and Matthew McConaughy are fun in stereotypical roles. Unfortunately, inspired comedy acting cannot hold a film which lacks quality in writing and execution and tries to make up for it all by trying too hard - much like Ben Stiller's acting.