I saw Tropic Thunder last night and I must say, this is a welcome return to form for Ben Stiller. Its layered satire and precise wit are a relief from the poo/fart/sex jokes and “I’m so stupid, it’s funny. Just look how stupid I am, but wait, I can be even stupider. See!” approach that most comedies take. Don’t get me wrong. Tropic Thunder is not high brow by any means. There is plenty of audacity in this film, (it is definitely an R rated movie) but it doesn’t lean on those shock moments for its substance. Robert Downey Jr alone is worth eight bucks.
In 1992, I remember watching a show on the new Fox Network called the Ben Stiller Show. I believe it was on Sunday nights after Married With Children (sweet sweet Kelly Bundy) and before Babes. Or was it Drexle’s Class, or Herman’s Head, or Top of the Heap? Man that network made a lot of crap off of the coattails of The Simpsons.
But the Ben Stiller show was hilarious. That's a very funny clip of a pre-coked out Andy Dick. Actually, he's probably pretty coked out in that clip. Anyway, the movie and TV comedy history of the last 15 years can trace a lot of its roots (for better or worse) back to the 13 episodes of the Ben Stiller show, even though it was never a hit and it was only on for a few months.
Andy Dick, Janeane Garofolo, Bob Odenkirk, David Cross, Owen and Luke Wilson, Jack Black, Sarah Silverman all can trace their career roots (some more directly than others) back to this show. Also, it was produced by Judd Apatow, so you could tie in the careers of a dozen other actors. Almost all of these people would all go on to significant main stream success, get overexposed by producing repetitive and lazy crap and then suffer a backlash. Do you know anyone who doesn’t hate Janeane Garofalo? It took until Reality Bites for me to get sick of her pseudo intellectual "coolness". But in 1992, this was all a fresh brand of comedy.
Ben Stiller has especially been in a rut since Meet the Parents. I’ll give him Zoolander as well, even though it’s not too high on my list. But my friends, Tropic Thunder is everything a good comedy should be. Good to have you back, Ben.
Tropic Thunder actually made me like Tom Cruise and Matthew McConaughey. I have really enjoyed the last five or six years hating those two guys and yet, based on last night’s viewing, I kinda like them now. I need these guys to serve as an irrational whipping post for all my frustrations, damn it! I mean, that's their job. To be a bunch entitle, oblivious jaggoffs, make asses of themselves and make me feel intelligent by contrast. But, it’s alright. I still have Cameron Diaz and Ben Affleck to despise. That’ll give me some relief. By the way, Gone Baby, Gone sucked.
You know satire is effective when a group of people that was never overtly insulted gets offended. You may have read about how the Special Olympics are protesting this movie due to its reference to and use of the word ‘retard’. Look, I don’t want to sound like I approve of humor at the expense of the handicapped. I respect the Special Olympics and Easter Seals standing up for the most vulnerable and innocent among us. But the movie is clearly making fun of actor’s playing mentally disabled characters to garner credibility and win awards. Dustin Hoffman in Rain Man, Tom Hanks in Forrest Gump, Sean Penn in I Am Sam. It’s taking aim at manipulative self serving actors that exploit the most noble of human emotions to win Oscars. That’s a worthy target for ridicule in my mind.