Ben Stiller, Tropic Thunder


Not everyone is hot for Tropic Thunder.

A coalition of prominent groups that advocate for the disabled are calling for a nationwide boycott of Ben Stiller's Tinseltown spoof, saying a subplot unfairly takes potshots at the mentally impaired.

To show they're serious, a number of the organizations are getting out the placards and hitting the streets to protest what they believe are negative portrayals of those with intellectual disabilities.

"Ideally, we'd like the movie not to be shown," Special Olympics spokesman Peter Wheeler told E! News. "If they don't pull it out of theaters, we'd like for people to hear what we're upset about, to not go and see the film and boycott screenings."

Tropic Thunder
, which the comic actor directs and also stars in with Jack Black, Nick Nolte and Robert Downey Jr., is an R-rated comedy that follows a group of thespians who travel into the jungles of Southeast Asia to shoot a big-budget Hollywood war epic only to later learn they've been dropped into a real-live war zone.

Perhaps the coalition's biggest beef with the movie-within-a-movie is Stiller's character, an imbecile actor named Tugg Speedman.

From those who've seen it, apparently Speedman once played a guy dubbed Simple Jack in a previous part, which he and others continuously refer to throughout Thunder as a "retard"—a joke spoofing the universal complaint that Hollywood only gives Oscars to actors who play Rain Man-type roles.

"It's an offensive film on a lot of levels," said Andy Imparto, head of the American Association of Disabled Persons.

"I understand the studio, director and writers were trying to be over-the-top, but in doing so around the use of the word retard, they really crossed the line...My biggest fear is high school boys will see this thing and think its cool to use this word and play with it the way it's played with in the movie."

Imparto added that while he and other groups, including Arc of the United States, the Special Olympics and the National Down Sydrome Congress, have had no contact with Stiller, DreamWorks did hold a conference call with them last week to hear their concerns.

"We're gonna do our best to let Hollywood and distributors know that it's not OK to make money playing off these harmful stereotypes," he said. "But my sense [after the conference call] is they want to do something with us."

The activist noted that DreamWorks execs and the filmmakers may have been too preoccupied about the reaction of the African-American community to Downey Jr.'s character—a white actor who undergoes an experimental pigmentization procedure to become "black"—to realize the negative statements they were making about the disabled right under their noses.

In any case, Imparto and the other groups plan to make their point about the need for more positive portrayals of the mentally challenged by picketing Thunder's star-studded premiere in Westwood tonight.

Chip Sullivan, a spokesman for DreamWorks, released a statement saying Tropic Thunder in no way aimed to mock mentally disabled people, noting the plot's reliance on "over-the-top characters in ridiculous situations." He noted that the studio would continue to address the activists' complaints.

"We have had productive discussions with representatives of disability advocacy organizations and look forward to working with them closely in the future," the statement said. "However, no changes or cuts to the film will be made."

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