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Blu-ray Review: Tropic Thunder

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For a movie all about being inside Hollywood, and the ridiculous inner-workings of it all, Tropic Thunder never loses its audience, or forgets to laugh at itself. This low-brow, crude comedy stars a cast of known faces who all “get it.” They become involved with their characters, most of whom lack an ounce of common sense, and have a blast doing it.

The movie about a movie that’s never actually made starring a dude playing a dude who’s actually another dude is a non-stop laugh riot. The opening, chronicling the filming of an over-the-top action sequence on the set of a Vietnam War movie (named of course Tropic Thunder), is actually impressive. The sense of scale, visual effects, and absolutely stunning pyro work makes you wish there was more of it.

Of course, that wouldn’t be much a movie. Instead, the pretentious, egotistical, and flat-out moronic actors are dropped into a jungle to film the movie guerilla style. Since the actors are oblivious to the fact that they’re actually in the Golden Triangle, a zone riddled with violent heroin dealers, they continue on firmly believing it’s all for the cameras.

There’s little doubt that the show-stealer here is Robert Downey Jr. His interplay with Ben Stiller, especially as they discuss Stiller’s failed Simple Jack, is jaw-droppingly offensive and hilarious. In fact, Downey’s character in general is offensive, undergoing a “controversial surgery to play the platoon's African-American character.” The gimmick never gets old.

Jack Black definitely goes too far at times as the drug-addicted Jeff Portnoy. His antics become annoying at times, ranting about nothing and screaming a lot. It recalls Chris Farley, although not in a good way. Tom Cruise’s heavily guarded surprise cameo makes up for it with his hilarious rants and priceless make-up. His movie producer attitude, especially when one of the actors becomes imprisoned, brings out a number of laughs.

For fans of Hollywood, there’s plenty of insider humor. Jay Baruchel’s meaningless yet hilarious monologue about the Blu-ray/HD DVD war is bound to draw laughs from anyone who was part of that battle. Numerous actors are called out by name (Sean Penn for I Am Sam), and the film has no problem making fun of itself numerous times.

Even if you’re not “into” Hollywood and some of its inner workings, there’s still plenty of comedy to be had from Tropic Thunder. Yes, some of the better parts would be over your head, but the snappy dialogue and absurdity of the situation still make for a fine over-the-top comedy worth your time.

“Wow.” That’s the first impression of this incredible Blu-ray. This is a marvelous, incredibly detailed, bright, and vibrant presentation. Colors pop off the screen, black levels are flawless and rich, and the clarity is overall some of the best yet seen on the format. If there’s any complaint, it’s that the contrast can run a little hot, particularly on long shots involving greenery. It’s a minor overall complaint.

TrueHD is the choice of audio formats here, and the 5.1 mix is alive with positional audio. Dialogue is consistently well mixed, and always audible over the action. Bass is the type that rattles rooms, and even non-action scenes deliver bits of ambient audio. Heavy action delivers on all fronts, and gunfire is distinct in every channel.

Tropic Thunder is loaded with featurettes, though things begin with two different commentaries. Ben Stiller leads the first along with his filmmaking team, and then again joins the main cast for their take on the movie. Four featurettes focus on pyro, the opening action scene, a basic script feature, and the sets. Each of the cast members is given their own piece, split into seven sections and running for 22 minutes total.

A Tom Cruise make-up test is included, along with 11 minutes of raw footage from the set, showcasing some of the adlib on the set. Deleted scenes include a far less funny alternate ending. The MTV VMA skit is one of the funniest parts of the disc, especially Downey willing to let himself be mocked about some personal issues.

Reign of Madness is the showcase piece here. Running about a half hour, this is a mockumentary about the events in the film. Everyone is in character, and it serves as an extension to the movie. It’s probably the best part of this entire home video release. BD-Live features include downloadable featurettes, which are on the DVD version. Why make the customer waste their time downloading them as if it’s something special?

Finally, the Blu-ray contains the director’s cut of the movie. It runs about 13 minutes longer, includes some nudity, extra dialogue exchanges, and a few extra laughs. Also, to maintain some of the fun from the mock trailers in the theater, the movie literally starts the second you hit play. It’s refreshing not to sit through FBI warnings, lawyer speak, and studio logos to watch a movie.

There’s a funny line in the film where Downey states he “doesn’t drop character until the DVD commentary.” That line actually carries some merit as yes, he stays in character for the vast majority of the commentary.

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About Matt Paprocki

Matt Paprocki has critiqued home media and video games for 13 years and is the reviews editor for Pulp365.com. His current passion project is the technically minded DoBlu.com. You can read Matt's body of work via his personal WordPress blog, and follow him on Twitter @Matt_Paprocki.
  • http://www.maskedmoviesnobs.com El Bicho

    While Cruise got a lot of deserved praise, I thought McConaughey was hysterical throughout.

  • guest

    i actually thought jack black stole every scene he was in. the scene of him tied to the tree had me actually laughing out loud. how he can make fun of himself to make the scene work better shows his confidence and vulnerability. the movie wouldnt have been the same without him.