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DreamWorks presents
Tropic Thunder (Blu-ray) (2008)

Alpa Chino: And why am I in this movie? Maybe I just knew I had to represent, because they had one good part in it for a black man and they gave it to Crocodile Dundee.
Kirk Lazarus: Pump your brakes, kid. That man is a national treasure.

- Alpa Chino (Brandon T. Jackson) and Kirk Lazarus (Robert Downey Jr.)

Review By: Matt Serafini  
Published: December 08, 2008

Stars: Ben Stiller, Jack Black, Robert Downey, Jr., Steve Coogan, Brandon T. Jackson, Nick Nolte
Other Stars: Tom Cruise, Matthew McConaughey, Danny McBride
Director: Ben Stiller

MPAA Rating: Not Rated for Strong language, violence and drug use
Run Time: 02h:01m:08s
Release Date: November 18, 2008
UPC: 097361394442
Genre: comedy


Style
Grade
Substance
Grade
Image Transfer
Grade
Audio Transfer
Grade
Extras
Grade
A- A-A+A+ A+

DVD Review

Say what you will about Ben Stiller (and I have—hat bastard still owes me a formal apology for Meet the Fockers), but when he gets behind the camera, the results are usually amazing. Iíve been a fan since the short-lived (but brilliant) Ben Stiller Show from the early '90s, and Iím comfortable saying that his recent effort, Tropic Thunder, represents his best work since that series.

The premise isnít dissimilar to the John Landis comedy Three Amigos, where a trio of dimwitted actors find themselves up against a gang of ruthless banditos while under the belief that they are making a movie. Here, weíre updated to modern day Hollywood, to the set of a star-studded, multi-million dollar Vietnam War epic on the verge of collapse. Renowned action superstar Tugg Speedman (Ben Stiller) is looking to revive his career after a series of commercial and critical failure. Jeff Portnoy (Jack Black) is a low-brow comedian known only for a series of fart comedies, while Kirk Lazarus (Robert Downey Jr.) is the pretentious thespian whose insistence on challenging his persona has resulted in portraying an African-American soldier. In a last-ditch attempt to salvage his rapidly sinking ship of a movie, desperate director Damien Cockbrun (Steve Coogan) takes his actors deep into the jungles of Vietnam to imbue the film with much needed authenticity. Of course, things refuse to go according to plan and, before long, our clueless actors are forced to conform to their movie roles in an effort to combat a local drug cartel that has kidnapped some of their own crew members.

Stillerís comedy is rowdy and one of the reasons why Tropic Thunder is such a blast to watch; it refuses to be pigeonholed. Humor ranges from blatant gross-out shock gags to smart and snappy dialogue and just about everything in between. Thereís some slapstick humor, satire, and a healthy dose of absolute randomness. If thereís anything surprising about any of this, itís how seamlessly it blends together. In the hands of a lesser artist this would be a film in desperate search of an identity, but Stiller (and co-writer Justin Theroux) keeps things on track and consistently hilarious—no schizophrenic nature here.

And while it all starts with a good script, one cannot talk about Tropic Thunder without reflecting on the expert casting. Ben Stiller mines familiar territory as the clueless mimbo, but itís funny stuff regardless. Jack Black delivers the broadest comedy of the bunch, but he gets some good belly laughs (try not to chuckle during the faux trailer for his movie, The Fatties, Part 2). And much has been written regarding Robert Downey Jrís controversial part as the actor who alters his skin to portray an African-American soldier. Itís a hilarious bit and a lighthearted caricature on method actors. Downey really shines. Thereís a terrific supporting cast as well: Brandon T. Jackson is the obnoxious rap mogul/opportunist Alpa Chino, Jay Baruchel plays a relative straight man to the rest of the guys, and Danny McBride is straight up hilarious as the overzealous pyrotechnic supervisor. Nick Nolte, Tom Cruise, and Matthew McConaughey show up in scene-stealing bit parts that elevate the humor nicely.

Itís interesting to reflect on the controversy that besieged this filmís opening over the summer (the theater I went to was littered with picketers who hadnít seen the film and werenít planning to). A minor subplot in Tropic Thunder deals with the fallout of Stillerís film, Simple Jack, where his character played a retarded farmhand in a shameless bid for Oscar. Some saw this as an attack on the mentally handicapped but, sadly, they perceived the joke entirely out of context. Thereís no sinister edge to any of this, just Stiller taking a good natured dig at some of his peers. In fact, despite the R rating (or this unrated cut), thereís very little offense to be taken from any of this. Itís all good-natured humor, and from the very first frame itís obvious that you shouldnít be taking any of it seriously.

In a year of dismal comedies, Tropic Thunder doesnít have much problem claiming the status of the year's funniest film. Stiller is in top form and his cast does the material proud. If youíre up for two hours of inspired nonsense, youíre not going to do any better than this.

Rating for Style: A-
Rating for Substance: A-

 

Image Transfer

 One
Aspect Ratio2.35:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes
Anamorphicyes


Image Transfer Review: We're getting down to the wire for 2008 and I have no problem saying that this Paramount's Blu-ray release is easily one of the most eye-popping on the market! They've had a terrific year in the high definition arena with terrific titles such as Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull and Transformers. Tropic Thunder is no different.

For starters, the jungle-heavy environments are richly textured and loaded with vibrant colors. Contrast is brilliant, with deep black levels that really illustrate the vivid color palate. Detail is prevalent within the deepest blacks. Best of all, there's no haloing and zero compression issues. As far as I'm concerned, this is a perfect disc and one of the very best in Paramout's already impressive high definition oeuvre.

Image Transfer Grade: A+

 

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
Dolby Digital
TruHD
English, French (5.1 only), Spanish (5.1 only)yes


Audio Transfer Review: Hell yeah! Tropic Thunder explodes onto Blu-ray in a rocking True HD audio track. In this war comedy, explosions and gunfire are all over the place. The rear channels are in almost constant use (including action and dialogue), creating an encompassing surround experience. The subwoofer doesn't relax either, ripe with deep bass on account of constant music and explosions. Dialogue remains crystal clear without ever getting lost in the shuffle. It's a track to keep home theater enthusiasts satisfied: busy, concise, and wholly satisfying.

Audio Transfer Grade: A+

 

Disc Extras

Full Motion menu with music
Scene Access with 24 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, French, Portuguese, Spanish with remote access
4 Deleted Scenes
1 Alternate Endings
1 Documentaries
2 Feature/Episode commentaries by Track 1: Writers Ben Stiller and Justin Theroux, producer Stuart Cornfeld, production designer Jeff Mann, cinematographer John Toll, and editor Greg Hayden.

Track 2: Actors Ben Stiller, Jack Black, and Robert Downey, Jr.
Packaging: standard Blu-ray packaging
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extra Extras:
  1. Reign of Madness
  2. Full Mags
  3. BD Live features
  4. MTV Movie Awards feature
Extras Review: Tropic Thunder arrives with a completely satisfying bundle of supplemental material. Not only are there two great commentary tracks, but tons of production material both real and faux. The end result makes this one of the most rewarding releases of the year and a definite home-run.

The first commentary is a production dialogue with participants Ben Stiller and Justin Theroux, producer Stuart Cornfeld, production designer Jeff Mann, cinematographer John Toll, and editor Greg Hayden. It's a surprisingly dry discussion despite being very informative, covering various aspects of pre-production and production. Fans of the film should find this to be worthwhile, even if it's only a warm-up for the second, far superior commentary ...

And that's with actors Stiller, Jack Black, and Robert Downey Jr. Trust me, this is going to rank up there with The Thing as one of the best commentary tracks of all time. These guys never stop with the wisecracks, while also offering plenty of insight into their characters and the production. To make things even better, Downey hardly breaks character, rattling on at great length as his cinematic alter ego, Kirk Lazarus. A real joy to listen to, and I got as many laughs out of this track as I did the film itself. Highly recommended.

Next up is the 3- minute mockumentary Rain of Madness, an amusing spoof of Heart of Darkness chronicling the very troubled production of the film. Offering tongue-in-cheek interviews with the film's participants (who remain in character), it's a probing piece about director Damien Cockburn and his valiant efforts to keep the bloated project afloat. It's a hilarious companion piece to the film.

There's an assortment of featurettes, beginning with the 22-minute Cast of Tropic Thunder, consisting of behind-the-scenes interviews with the main cast. The rest of the featurettes are far shorter:
Before the Thunder looks at the film's long history in coming to the screen.
Hot LZ is an expansive dissection of the opening action sequence.
Blowing Shit Up focuses on the pyrotechnics.
Designing the Thunder is a standard set design featurette.

Outside of the production featurettes, you'll also find the Make-up Test with Tom Cruise, which runs about one minute and thirty seconds. Nothing too special here, but it is funny to see Cruise gettin' down to some hip hop tunes.

Deleted Scenes are broken down into two actual deleted scenes, two extended scenes, and an alternate ending. Very funny, even if the alternate ending works only as a curiosity piece.

Full Mags runs 8 minutes and is a compilation of alternate takes and outtakes of one particular scene between Downey and Stiller. You can also view this with an introduction from the director and editor.

Tropic Thunder at the MTV Movie Awards is a funny little promotional piece that was tacked onto the aforementioned award show.

BD Live offers a ton of extra stuff: further outtakes, extended sequences from Rain of Madness, and more behind the scenes footage. You will know everything you could ever want to know about the making of this film by the time you're finished with all of this material. Very expansive but also incredibly well-produced and completely enjoyable.

Extras Grade: A+

 

Final Comments

Paramount's Blu-ray arrives in a perfect package. Not only is the movie flat out hilarious, but the high definition presentation is a total knockout. Beyond that you've got an amazing collection of extra materials. In short, Tropic Thunder is the perfect package. One of the most impressive releases of the year. Highly recommended.

 


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