Monday, August 18, 2008

Movie Review - Tropic Thunder

We in The Middle Room see few parodies these days. This wasn't always the case, of course. When we think of our childhood years, we think of films such as Monty Python and the Holy Grail, UHF, and of the collected works of Mel Brooks (iD&Di: .32).

But somewhere along the way things fell apart. We don't recall when we first grew bored with the genre, but, to an extent, we outgrew it. Perhaps that is too generous an assessment: parody has become largely a mockery of what it once represented.

We exclude from this indictment a growing subsection of "quasi-parodies." Movies such as Sky High, Enchanted, Galaxy Quest, and Shaun of the Dead, while certainly containing elements of the parody, are films driven by character first. The references are there, no doubt, but these are peripheral to the main concept of the films. All of these are phenomenal pictures: if you missed any of these, we recommend them wholeheartedly. But they are genre films first. They are superhero movies, science fiction, or horror: the comedy is not the sole point.

But there exists a type of film where the comedy stands at the forefront. When we accuse the genre of faltering, we refer to the trend of reference-driven movies which show no sign of thought or reason. A reference, lacking context or purpose, is the lowest form of comedy, below even the infamous pun.

But there is room in our cineplexes for films crafted of references and jokes, provided there is thought, as well. Tropic Thunder, we are happy to report, is a parody worth watching. What's truly impressive is that this is an actual parody; slapstick even. The characters exist to tie the scenes and jokes together.

What separates this from lesser attempts is the degree of thought that has been invested. Expense was not spared on the effects or the sound design. The movie draws you in then gives you something to laugh at. But the jokes are complex. Rather than go for the cheap joke at every turn, there was actual thought put into this script.

Mike Myers (iD&Di: .41), perhaps, should take notes.

We would also be remiss were we to ignore the acting and makeup work. If you've heard anything about this movie, you've no doubt heard that Robert Downey, Jr. (iD&Di: .42) is hilarious. Between Tropic Thunder and Iron Man, this is certainly a good year for him.

But Downey was aided by some exceptional makeup work. It is our sincere belief that Tropic Thunder is deserving of the Oscar for best makeup. This is not hyperbole: it is fact.

On a scale of one to five, where five stars is equal to the greatness of Monty Python and the Holy Grail, we wouldn't hesitate to give Tropic Thunder three and a half. This is an exceptional event: a parody in this day and age actually worth seeing.

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