I seem to mostly appreciate the work done by Ben Stiller (Zoolander, Cable Guy, Something About Mary). I took my son to see Tropic Thunder, and found the film to be a 'merry romp' (If I can use that cinematic expression these days), of course one of the most interesting things about Tropic Thunder is the lack of real bullets. In this case the enemy have actual guns yet all the fighting from the other side is done using props. This made it very enjoyable for me. Even though sometimes Stiller pushes for gags, predictable yet others take you by surprise. The way Stiller works, well the way he worked on Zoolander, was by using test audiences extensively. Each version of a scene played to gage the level of response. Maybe there is a degree of insecurity Ben feels about his writing, or it's just a convenient tool for improvising scenes.
Tropic Thunder handles the whole "war" genre exceptionally well, making its influences obvious and placing it within the context of Hollywood filmmaking, and this is of course, a Hollywood war movie. A Police Academy film but with soldiers instead of Police Officers. As with most people, I enjoy different kinds of films for different kinds of reasons - and although I am not a fan at all of war films (except for Dawn Patrol and Full Metal Jacket), I am all for sending them up, but sending them up well. This isn't the first war comedy, as we know films like Sgt. Bilko and Privates on Parade represented the genre in humor without intertextualising the actual genre itself.
A film like Dawn Patrol (Errol Flynn & David Niven) is another angle on presenting aspects of war purely because of the lack of actual battling in the film. So to with Tropic Thunder, the lack of bullets, the pretense, makes us wonder what then is engrossing us so much. We know no-one can really get killed by their guns not only because we are watching a movie but because it is part of the movies plot that the guns are fake. We laugh and enjoy the explosions, the heroics. It's funny because no-one is going to get hurt. Well, only the good guys, so there is the dramatic tension but even that is alright, it is only a movie after all.
I got the feeling that Owen Wilson might have been lined up to play Rick Peck, not just because of the similarity in features of Matthew McConaughey who played the part but because of the lines.
There is really not a lot to say about this kind of film except there is lots of character acting which with the right combination makes for entertaining business. Tom Cruise was okay but nothing special. Lots of goof, lots of spoof, and Ben Stiller of course whose trademark is acting aloof.
I did like the use of an Online journal to accompany the film, Rain of Madness. Good use of social communication tools.