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A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
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 & Scariness
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.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
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.
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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.
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Products & Purchases
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.
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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. To stay in the loop on more movies like this, you can sign up for weekly Family Movie Night emails.
Is It Any Good?
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.
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Our Editors Recommend
Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.See how we rate