Tropic Thunder: A Second Look
If you have not read my first review of Tropic Thunder please go to August 2008 in my archive.
The summer of 2008 was a great season for comic book films. Not only did every single superhero flick flourish at the box office, but most of them received critical praise as well (with the exception of Hancock). With all that success revolving around action films, the summer really needed a comedy to round itself off and make it a truly memorable one. Late in August, I reported that Tropic Thunder was the film that fulfilled that need. I mentioned how the performances of Robert Downey Jr, Tom Cruise, and Brandon T. Jackson saved the film from it's somewhat flimsy story. The Academy went as far as to nominate Downey Jr for Best Actor in a Supporting Role as the 81st Oscar ceremony. Even now, I feel this nomination was well deserved as Downey Jr really nailed that role down to a T. Tom Cruise also received a Golden Globe nomination with Downey Jr for Supporting Actor in a Comedy, which was a bit much, but after all, it's just the Golden Globes. Either way, it was not just me that felt some of the performances in Tropic Thunder were praiseworthy.
Last month, I finally bought Tropic Thunder hoping it would be just as funny the next few times around, and I was a little disappointed. Not a significant amount, but there was a definite letdown. All of the performances I once praised were still great and I feel like I will always give them high marks. Downey Jr was just as brilliant to watch the second time as he was the first. Cruise's foul mouthed movie executive Les Grossman was still an outrageous character that provided lots of laughs and that little extra bit of satire. However, all of the negative aspects of the film that I pointed out in my first review became much more evident and harder to avoid this second time around. The problem with comedies is that there are very few of them that have the ability to last. A joke that could have you rolling in stitches the first time you hear it may not even coerce a chuckle out of you the second time. In Tropic Thunder, I remembered most of the jokes of the film, and Downey Jr's performance, although still terrific, was less surprising as the first time. So sadly, there wasn't much opportunity for me to laugh out loud during my second viewing of this film. Instead, I kept noticing how Ben Stiller and Jack Black were uncharacteristically bland and one dimensional. I really noticed how it took the film a very long time to get rolling out of the starting gate. When I saw it in theaters I noticed this as well, but not to this extent.
Tropic Thunder was no one hit wonder though, and I don't mean to imply that. Even on second viewing there were numerous laugh out loud moments and once again, great performances. The biting satire commenting on why actors make some decisions in their career is scarily accurate and still a potent theme. And since the direction can't change from one viewing to the next (only the way you view the direction can differ), the action sequences were still well put together with the perfect blend of violence and comedy. So although it may not be the ideal comedy that will live on forever, and it will probably do nothing else but diminish even more over time, Tropic Thunder is still a good experience, although less of one than I originally thought. My new rating: (6.5/10)