Monday, August 18, 2008

MOVIE REVIEW: "Tropic Thunder"

Is laughing at oneself (pointedly) a sublime form of Narcissism? Is Hollywood self-deprecation a superior state of self-loathing? If these questions ever struck you, see "Thunder Alley", a monumentally unfunny in-joke.

Even the adolescents in the audience during the showing I attended did not laugh, except once, in the beginning at Jack Black's farting. After that, the jokes seemed beneath their dignity. Has Hollywood now reached the point where their humor onscreen is aimed at kids under eleven? Or only at themselves (Hollywood in-jokes); which may be the same thing?

The picture lacks plotting (at least of the clever kind), character (one note per person/instrument does not a symphony make), comprehension (unabated noise does not enhance clarity), and, as stated above, humor.

Some critics are taking offense at a white actor playing a character in black face and another character making fun of brain-challenged people. I disagree: this film if beneath offense. It threatens no one. Insipidity is a dulled instrument.

I'm sure the producers and Ben Stiller (who was the creative-??-force behind this movie) might reactively put up the shield of satire to counteract negative criticism--and to excuse their excesses, which primarily includes excessive dullness. The shield would be porous, however. There is in the pantheon of art excellent satire--not this film--and there is very poor satire--this film.

Jack Black, Robert Downey, Jr. Tom Cruise and Ben Stiller are brilliant actors, four of the best of their generation. But in this film they are like an All Star team 'strutting and preening' their way to a loss in the first round of the Olympics.

I blame Dreamworks, the studio behind the movie, who must have OK ed the script and underwrote the expenses. They (S, K and G) should know better; the old adage applies: never let the inmates--the actors, Ben Stiller in particular--run the asylum (after all, isn't that, in a sense, the lesson of the movie).

Or do movie moguls today, the whores of the teen-age marketplace, know the difference anymore? Perhaps everything and everyone (in the US and their in-joke popular culture) is within the asylum; the inmates are all-inclusive? And the final truth of the matter is that no one is running the place? Similar to families where the kids are run themselves (and their expenditures) and lobbyists who run the government--or lack thereof?

Oh could have been least I paid matinee prices.


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