Tropic Thunder

  • Review Date: August 12, 2008
  • Rated: R
  • Genre: Comedy
  • Release Year: 2008
  • Running Time: 111 minutes

Common Sense Media says

Showbiz satire is witty, violent, controversial.
  • Review Date: August 12, 2008
  • Rated: R
  • Genre: Comedy
  • Release Year: 2008
  • Running Time: 111 minutes

Age(i)

2
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5
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9
10
11
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13
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15
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17

Quality(i)

 

What parents need to know

Positive messages

Robert Downey Jr.'s character is a Caucasian actor who undergoes a skin-darkening procedure to play an African-American soldier; while in character, his demeanor is purposely stereotypical. There's also a running gag about "retards" regarding Ben Stiller's character's portrayal of a mentally challenged man. Both of these issues are meant to illustrate the movie's theme: that Hollywood is full of self-absorbed prima donnas who need to stop being so insecure and egotistical. There's also finger-pointing at audiences who eat up tabloid fodder and mindless entertainment.

Violence

At first the blood-and-guts gore is fake (part of the movie-within-a-movie's makeup/special effects), but at a certain point it becomes real. Graphic violence includes a man's body exploding; a menacing young boy (possibly a young teen) toting machine guns, rocket-propelled grenades, and handguns; a decapitated head being played with; body parts strewn around; many explosions and close-up shots of G-4 and other explosives; a toddler knifing someone and being comically thrown off a bridge (but surviving), and much more.

Sex

The men discuss relationships, and one closeted character proclaims he loves "p---y" while another talks crudely about how he'd perform oral sex on the gay man in exchange for help out of a predicament. Other than that, just a quick kiss at the end between an actor and his date.

Language

Nearly every sentence includes explicit language, with very few exceptions. This is a contender for most on-screen "F" bombs of the year. Along with the constant "f--k"s, "motherf----r," "p---y," "c--k," "c--t," and other hard-R words make several appearances.

Consumerism

Product placement is mocked with a fake energy drink called "Booty Sweat." Real brands include Diet Coke, Access Hollywood, TiVo (quite prominently), and the Gulfstream V jet.

Drinking, drugs, & smoking

A major subplot involves a heroin processing plant; a character is a heroin addict; various characters drink and smoke.

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that this hard-R action comedy starring kid favorites Ben Stiller, Jack Black, and (thanks to Iron Man) Robert Downey Jr. is really a satirical send-up of Hollywood culture -- from the stereotypical castes of actors and greedy studio heads to celeb-obsessed TV shows. Much has been made of some of the movie's more controversial sources of humor, including having Downey darken his skin to play an African-American character and a running gag about a mentally challenged man played by Stiller's character. It's all meant to drive home the movie's points about Hollywood, but you may need to explain that to teens. There's also a lot of gory violence (both fake and realistic) -- including a 12-year-old drug lord who's scary and good with weapons -- as well as enough swear words to make Quentin Tarantino blush. Drugs (use and manufacture) are part of a significant subplot, but there are basically no women in the film, so there's only brief mention of sex.

Parents say

Kids say

What's the story?

Tugg Speedman (Ben Stiller) is a fading action star desperately trying to reclaim Hollywood bankability in the Vietnam film-within-a-film TROPIC THUNDER. Joining Speedman on the Southeast Asia set are Kirk Lazarus (Robert Downey Jr.), an Oscar winner who controversially darkens his skin to play an African-American soldier; scatological comedian/out-of-control drug addict Jeff Portnoy (Jack Black); savvy hip-hop-mogul-turned-actor Alpa Chino (Brandon T. Johnson); and nerdy film-school grad Kevin Sandusky (Jay Baruchel). When the overwhelmed, grossly over-budget director (Steve Coogan) realizes he's about to lose control of the movie, he concocts a last-ditch plan with the loopy Vietnam vet (Nick Nolte) whose memoir the movie is based on: Chopper the ensemble into the jungle with nothing but their uniforms and a map in hopes of capturing more intense performances. But soon after being deserted, the actors encounter the very real threat of armed heroin manufacturers, who mistake the fake army unit for American DEA agents.

Is it any good?

QUALITY
 

Writer-director-producer Stiller pokes witty fun at self-absorbed actors and greedy studios in this send-up of action-packed war dramas. Although it's darker and more violent than the much-seen trailer suggests, Tropic Thunder is bitingly funny and incredibly intelligent. Downey is especially brilliant as "the dude playing the dude disguised as another dude" -- a Method actor so caught up in the part he doesn't drop character between shots. Black has less to do as a junkie lowbrow comic, but Baruchel and Johnson shine as, respectively, the newcomer actor who actually read the entire script and the diversified rapper adding acting to his many revenue streams. It's remarkable that Stiller, unlike many actors who direct themselves, resisted the opportunity to focus on himself and instead allowed his ensemble of whip-smart actors with impeccable comedic timing to do their thing.

In a fabulous piece scenery chewing, a nearly unrecognizable Tom Cruise straps on a bald cap and a hairy fat suit to play repulsive studio head Les Grossman, the kind of obscenity-spewing tycoon who would sell his mother's soul to Satan for higher box-office grosses. He even tries to convince Speedman's loyal agent (Matthew McConaughey, who for once keeps his shirt on) to let Speedman die at the heroin gang's hands in exchange for a personal jet. Cruise and Downey are the hilarious highlights in one of this year's funniest films.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about satire. Do teens get that everything in the movie is satirizing formulaic Hollywood blockbusters, insecure actors, mindless celebrity gossip shows, etc.? What do they think about Downey playing an African American? Funny? Offensive? How is it different than the now-unacceptable practice of white actors performing in blackface for minstrel shows? And what about the "retard" characterizations? Ask your teens whether they thought it was amusing or off-putting, and see if they can explain their point of view. It will help them see the material critically. How does the movie-within-a-movie allow the filmmakers to poke fun at the film industry?

Movie details

Theatrical release date:August 13, 2008
DVD release date:November 17, 2008
Cast:Ben Stiller, Jack Black, Robert Downey Jr.
Director:Ben Stiller
Studio:Paramount Pictures
Genre:Comedy
Run time:111 minutes
MPAA rating:R
MPAA explanation:pervasive language including sexual references, violent content and drug material.

This review of Tropic Thunder was written by

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  • ON: Content is age-appropriate for kids this age.
  • PAUSE: Know your child; some content may not be right for some kids.
  • OFF: Not age-appropriate for kids this age.
  • NOT FOR KIDS: Not appropriate for kids of any age.

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  • Not for Kids: Not age-appropriate for kids; not recommended for learning.

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Parent of a 15 and 15 year old Written byxmasterxofxmyxd... June 30, 2009
AGE
15
QUALITY
 

The Funniest movie of 2008

Tropic Thunder is an ironic, witty, satirical, and downright hilarious movie that makes fun of everthing from prima donnas in hollywood, overuse of sequels, and just the movie business itself. This movie is also filled with perfect writing, and it is probably one of the most quotable movies i have ever seen. Every character in this movie is also hilarious from RDJ's performance as Kirk Lazarus who won't drop out of character, Ben Stiller as the actor who just can't stop acting in flops, Jack Black as the slapstick comedy star with drug problems, Brandon T. Jackson as Alpa Chino, who has an energy drink called 'booty sweat' and an energy bar called 'bust a nut", and Jay Baruchel as Kevin Sandusky, he has some funny lines but he doesn't really stand out as a huge, rich character, he just knows a lot about blu-ray vs hd dvd. Anyways, Tropic Thunder is simply hilarious from the main performances and even Danny MCbride, and Tom Cruise are hilarious in their small roles, and you are going to laugh no matter what.
What other families should know
Too much violence
Too much sex
Too much swearing
Too much drinking/drugs/smoking
Teen, 16 years old Written byzysilveria June 28, 2009
AGE
9
QUALITY
 

F the R rating

This movie is MEANT for kids. Adults don't get or appreciate half the movie.
What other families should know
Great messages
Great role models
Adult Written byDBarto June 7, 2009
AGE
17
QUALITY
 

This film needs to clean up its act

This is the dirtiest film (outside of Team America World Police) I have ever seen. Is it funny? Sort of. It is Clever? Sometimes. Is it appropriate for anyone under the age of 17? NO! If you can think of a cuss word, in the first ten minutes of the film they probably use it. Is there nudity, yes, Stillers agent flips through a pornographic book while talking to stiller, and quite a few other things. Even I felt dirty after watching it. Personally, this film shouldn't be seen by anyone under the age of 21. A 2 out of 5
What other families should know
Too much violence
Too much sex
Too much swearing
Too much consumerism
Too much drinking/drugs/smoking

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