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Tropic Thunder Archives -

Tropic Thunder Archives -

Mack Chico


2008/08/31 at 12:00am

‘Tropic Thunder’ reigns for third straight week

'Tropic Thunder' reigns for third straight week

Action film parody “Tropic Thunder” clung to the top spot at the North American box office for a third straight week as the summer moviegoing season sputtered to a lackluster close, Hollywood studios reported on Sunday.

Paramount Pictures’ farcical combat movie within a comedy, starring Ben Stiller, Robert Downey Jr. and Jack Black, sold an estimated $11.5 million in U.S. and Canadian tickets Friday through Sunday to bring its three-week tally to $83.8 million.

While the final weekend heading into the U.S. Labor Day holiday is typically one of the slowest of the summer, the box office was especially lethargic despite five new films competing for attention in domestic theaters. None of those even managed to even crack the $10 million mark.

“It was an underwhelming end to a phenomenal summer,” said Paul Dergarabedian, head of box office tracking service Media By Numbers.

Business also was likely dampened by the approach of Hurricane Gustav along the U.S. Gulf Coast, where many families were too busy boarding up their homes and fleeing to higher ground to go to the movies.

“Tropic Thunder,” about a group of self-absorbed actors who get caught up in a real-life battle with narco-terrorists while filming a war movie in Southeast Asia, was the only film to post ticket sales in the double-digit millions.

Its biggest competition came from a real action flick, the sci-fi thriller “Babylon A.D.” from 20th Century Fox starring Vin Diesel, which grossed an estimated $9.7 million in its first weekend to land at No. 2.

Blockbuster Batman sequel “The Dark Knight” climbed up a notch on the box office chart to No. 3 with weekend receipts of nearly $8.8 million, pushing its cumulative domestic haul to an estimated $502 million after 45 days in release.

“Dark Knight,” a Warner Bros picture, becomes only the second film to cross the $500 million threshold. Two weeks ago, it surpassed “Star Wars” as the second highest grossing movie ever, behind only “Titanic” at $601 million.

Weekend ticket sales as a whole were sluggish, however, down 14 percent from the same period a year ago, as several new films failed to gain traction at the megaplex.

Two comedies opening on Friday, “Disaster Movie” and “College,” plus Don Cheadle’s thriller “Traitor,” which debuted on Wednesday, and “Hamlet 2,” a comedy that expanded nationally on Wednesday, grossed just $17.9 combined this weekend.

Together with “Babylon A.D.” those films together accounted for $27.6 million in ticket sales, only about $1 million more than the top-grossing movie from last year’s same weekend, “Halloween,” managed all by itself.

The Labor Day holiday on Monday marks the official conclusion to the 18-week summer film season, which can account for as much as 40 percent of the movie industry’s total business for the year.

When final studio figures come in later this week, Hollywood is expected to eke out roughly $4 billion in North American box office receipts, perhaps even slightly exceeding last summer’s record $4.18 total.

But with the actual number of admissions down more than 3 percent from a year ago, the gain in revenues is fueled mostly by higher ticket prices.

Alejandro Arbona


2008/08/16 at 12:00am

Tropic Thunder

Rated: R for pervasive language including sexual references, violent content and drug material.
Release Date: 2008-08-15
Starring: Ben Stiller, Justin Theroux, Etan Cohen
Film Genre:
Country: NULL
Official Website:

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Tropic Thunder

“Tropic Thunder”, the new comedic vehicle by Ben Stiller and his pals, kicks off with a assault on the audience so unexpected and so enormously funny that it takes you totally by surprise and disarms you completely. Unfortunately, though “Tropic Thunder” is pretty good at several other points, this sequence ends up being the funniest in the entire movie.

It’s the story of three Hollywood actors from very different genres, who join forces to shoot a Vietnam-war melodrama. Ben stiller is Tugg Speedman, an action star whose career has suffered after his recent choices of roles, namely that of a developmentally disabled character he played hoping to win an Oscar in a movie called “Simple Jack.” Roberto Downey Jr., on the other hand, plays Kirk Lazarus, an Australian five-time Oscar-winner, who goes after roles for the challenge of becoming wholly new and different people foreign to his own reality; in the film-within-a-film also called “Tropic Thunder,” he plays an African-American soldier, a role for which Lazarus/Downey Jr. has had his skin dyed and his hair curled. And Jack Black plays Jeff Portnoy, a gross-out comedy star whose biggest success has been playing multiple roles as each member of a flatulent, obese family, and who’s joined the cast of the weighty Vietnam picture because he’d like to be taken seriously as an artist. Brandon T. Jackson also appears as a hip-hop star called Alpa Chino (read the name out loud if you don’t see the gag), and Jay Baruchel as Kevin Sandusky, a rookie actor on his first production, surrounded by big stars. Finally, the outstanding cast is rounded out by the British actor/comedian Steve Coogan as Damien Cockburn, the film’s director; Nick Nolte as Four Leaf Tayback, the Vietnam vet whose war memoirs were the basis for the screenplay; Matthew McConaughey as Rick Peck, Speedman’s aggressive agent; and Tom Cruise in a prosthetic belly and bald cap, as the villainous Les Grossman, the head of the studio.

The actors are generally excellent, above all Downey Jr. The exception to a strong cast for me was Ben Stiller, a comedic star I personally find to be very limited in the versatility of his characters and improvisations (notice how similar most or all of his film characters are; they tend to be hostile, overbearing, extremely dumb, or all three). The same goes for Tom Cruise, whose character turns out to be a one-note joke; the novelty of seeing Tom Cruise in disguise and playing such an unpleasant character was a gag that got old fast, and a role to which Cruise didn’t bring anything more.

The movie does have its grand comic moments, and some even hilarious. When it weakens is when the story becomes too dense; separate subplots play out onscreen, but Stiller’s unskilled hand as director treats all of them with equal importance, and the audience is distracted by narratives that should have just been extremely minor subplots. What’s more, enormous stretches of time pass in the film’s over-long running time when we don’t see or hear from one character or another, creating a very uneven story during the middle part of the movie.

Nevertheless, “Tropic Thunder” redeems itself and entertains the audience enormously during its stronger parts, and it even has its truly brilliant moments.

One separate note: The subject of a Caucasian actor playing an African-American man and verging on blackface buffoonery has turned out not to provoke the negative reaction you would have imagined, and I think rightly so, because it’s an issue of satire and what that character as a Hollywood star is willing to do. However, the element that has drawn criticism and even a boycott after all is the melodramatic, Oscar-bait role Tugg Speedman (Stiller) had played in his previous outing, “Simple Jack” about a developmentally disabled young man. Stiller is certainly less deft as an actor than Downey Jr., and plays that fictional part with less seriousness – because even a comedic character has to take himself totally seriously, even if the audience laughs at him. And maybe it’s because of the broad, exaggerated absurdity of Stiller’s performance in the part, but several groups dedicated to the rights and dignity of people with disabilities have organized a boycott of “Tropic Thunder.” I respect their motives wholeheartedly, but I don’t personally agree with them; the character is nothing more than a skewering of Hollywood actors and these roles they play, whether for the challenge of embodying a character they couldn’t possibly fully understand, or to raise awareness of the disadvantages faced by different groups in society, or as in the case of Tugg Speedman in “Simple Jack,” to show off their dramatic chops and try to win an Oscar. It’s not disrespectful of people with disabilities, in my opinion, but just Hollywood satire, and I’m confident that was Stiller’s intention as writer, director and actor.


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