Finally, someone is giving the Judd Apatow crowd a run for their money in the league of absurd, crude, R-rated comedies. And this one is helmed by none other than Ben Stiller.
Tropic Thunder is a multi-layered send-up of war movies--a genre that hasn't really been touched since the Hot Shots films (I think). Some of the strokes are subtle. Specific shots reference Platoon, Apocalypse Now!, and Saving Private Ryan, and fans of the genre will take notice. Others are more broad. Jack Black's drug adled comedian character borrows from Eddie Murphy and Robin Williams (although not directly enough to say that he is parodying anyone in particular); Robert Downey, Jr.,'s (punctuation police?) Kirk Lazarus is one part Tom Hanks and three parts Russel Crowe. Ben Stiller is... well, a bit more generic, but I couldn't help but remember his take on Tom Cruise back in the day. And speaking of Tom Cruise, he shows up and steals every scene he touches, and every scene he's in is funnier than the one before.
In fact, the bit players do a lot for this film. Brandon Soo Hoo, the itty-bitty drug lord, is instantly likeable and endearing... for a drug lord. Matthew Mac-Con-Nah-Hee is great fun to watch, as are Danny R. McBride and Brandon T. Jackson. And I chuckled mightily as Jay Baruchel waxed philosophical about how gamers and porn had determined the Blu-Ray/HD-DVD fight. Even the tiniest bit parts were seriously, seriously amusing. Toby McGuire shows up for about thirty seconds--perhaps the funniest thirty seconds of the film. Jon Voigt and Lance Bass are there for a few guffaws.
Silly and as much an over-the-top war film as the films it spoofs, Tropic Thunder is hilariously offensive and vile. Not perfect, but side-achingly fun if you're in the right frame of mind.