Sunday, August 17, 2008

Let's get mentally impaired

I saw Tropic Thunder yesterday.

It was pretty funny. (Perhaps even better than that.) But, for the life of me, I wish I hadn't read quite so much about it.

Tropic Thunder suffered from one of those unfortunate modern phenomenon: Too good a trailer, too much promotion, and too many critics spoiling jokes. The very best routines were the ones I was sort of waiting for. (My favorite: Robert Downey: "What do you mean, 'You people?'" Beat. Brandon Jackson: "What do you mean, 'You people?'")

Critics (much like actors) are vain people who want their copy to sing. Naturally, they'll toss in a few of the best jokes to give their own reviews a little more shine. This was shamelessly on display in Tropic Thunder. Which is a bummer, because many of the jokes are really good. (And there are a few excellent ones that, fortunately, were spared from the reviews.)

And being that everyone and his grandmother has written about this movie (and formed an opinion on the "controversies") I'll add my two cents on three points:

1) The Controversies.

I have a tough time taking this one seriously. On the question of "the R-word." Uh, fellas -- nobody's making fun of people with mental retardation. They're making fun of actors. Plus, what's in the movie was really pretty meek stuff. (We're not talking jaw-dropping South Park or Borat level humor.) And Slate ran an embarrassingly bad piece, "Why blackface is never a good idea" which seemed to make the case that every time blackface was used in a movie in the last 30 years it was offensive (just as offensive as when blackface was being performed in minstrel shows). That piece was, to use Robert Downey Jr.'s phrasing, "moronical." (Fortunately, Slate's regular movie critic Dana Stevens, didn't succumb to such nonsense.)

2) Tom Cruise.

I don't know what he was doing in this movie. And I don't know why his performance is reaping such praise. Yeah, I get it. He was making fun of Sumner Redstone. I didn't believe for a nanosecond that Cruise was some sort of bald Hollywood Jewish mogul. (Now that portrayal gave off the whiff of antisemitism. But given how many Jews were involved in this movie, that's the kind of controversy that could never have legs.)

3) Robert Downey, Jr.

One thing the critics nailed. He's great. Worth the price of admission, I think.