First of all, the goodies begin even before the main movie starts proper, with some hilarious fake ads and trailers just like Tarantino and Rodriguez's Grindhouse features which fabricated some material of its own, so don't be a dweeb and be late for the movie.
Now that the public service reminder is out of the way, Tropic Thunder managed to live up to its hype, which in my personal opinion is a bit difficult these days because the marketing folks usually put the best bits in the trailers so that there's no more surprises left, or that the narrative actually fizzles out into mediocrity, losing steam halfway through the movie. Thankfully, this movie managed to pace and therefore sustain itself right through to the ending.
There were a couple of plus points in the movie that made it rewarding to sit through. First of all, the movie satirizes almost everything that makes up the Hollywood film industry, with some keen poking of fun from the actors to the crew, from agents to the studio executives, not to mention relatively direct spoofs of Vietnam War movies like Platoon and Apocalypse Now.
Then you also have the ensemble characters who add plenty of dimentional flavour and brought to life by their respective cast. Typical characters for ensemble movies get included , ranging from the action hero, the comedian, the character actor, the rapper turned actor and the newbie teenager on the cusp of his first big memorable break. While the keyart might have only Stiller, Downey Jr and Black on its marquee, the supporting roles and cameos also earn as much respect in delivering this movie, especially an almost unrecognizable Tom Cruise, who dons a bodysuit to hide his pretty boy looks (not the first time he's done in, ala Vanilla Sky), and possessing the rare gift of incessant swearing which I haven't seen him do since Born on the Fourth of July.
His character, sleazy studio executive Les Grossman, gets my thumbs up for lighting up the screen each time he's on, and probably had single handedly stole the thunder (pardon the pun) from the main leads, which I thought director Ben Stiller had realized the campiness of this role, that he decided it should be milked a lot more. While he plays against type, I doubt Cruise will get any Oscar nods for this insane role, but there's always MTV to show its appreciation to his madcap antics done right, for a role and not on a couch.
Besides his supporting role, there were also others such as Steve Coogan as the rookie English director having to control his prima donna actors, and also to try and keep the movie from spiralling further out of budget and schedule, and Nick Nolte as Four Leaf Tayback, a Vietnam Vet who lost 2 of his hands, whose book the movie Tropic Thunder is based on, given the industry's raid on books and graphic novel material to make movies, if not going down the path of remakes. Look out also for plenty of cameos such as Jennifer Love Hewitt, Alicia Silverstone, Jon Voight, and Tobey Maguire if you're on time to view those fake trailers.
And what of the leads? I thought they probably had a good time making this movie, hamming up for their characters and providing some crazy laughs. Ben Stiller leads the team as Tugg Speedman, the action hero who desperately needs a hit to repair his reputation after a disastrous dramatic stint in which he plays the much-frowned upon retarded role of Jack the simpleton. His character is a little of a show-off, and he managed some superb nuances in his persona as the cock-sure action person. Robert Downey Jr plays his opposite number, the exaggerated multiple-award winner Kirk Lazarus who stays in character all the time until the release of the DVD commentary, undergoes a controversial surgical procedure to help him ease into the role, and shares probably some of the best scenes with Stiller in the movie. Move aside Tony Stark/Iron Man, Downey Jr's role here is more memorable!
And to round things off, Jack Black got quite muted as the fart-it-all comedian who doesn't feel appreciated and is a drug junkie, Jay Baruchel as the teenage nobody hoping that his role here amongst the heavyweights would get him laid, and Brandon T Jackson's Alpa Chino just cracks me up on his name alone, as the rapper turned actor slyly promoting the beverage he endorses, and has a very fleeting suggestion of homosexuality (somehow the rage these days in comedies?)
The last Ben Stiller directed movie was some 7 years ago with Zoolander, but he more than makes up for the long wait with this superb effort, especially with the support from a great cast who play their crazy roles with aplomb. Definitely justifies its accolades as one of the comedies of the year. Get some!