Tropic Thunder

Merie Weismiller W, Dreamworks Pictures

Review in a Hurry: A group of actors lost on location while filming the costliest war epic of all time find themselves in a world of hilarious pain while deftly satirizing Hollywood. War, what is it good for? More laughs than serial flatulence!

The Bigger Picture: Biceps bulging, action film hero Tug Speedman (Ben Stiller) explains, "I don't read the script, the script reads me." Tropic Thunder is less about spoofing action movies (or war, which the filmmakers understood is patently impossible if you're not Stanley Kubrick), and more about lambasting Hollywood's fevered egos. It's wicked bombast from the first scene to the last grenade-pin pull (including Tom Cruise's storied cameo, with Mr. Risky Business now dancing madly in a fat suit).

Some viewers might find something offensive if they were able to stop cackling long enough. Matching Apocalypse Now for sheer over-the-topness (of a farcical, rather than creepy, epic variety), Tropic Thunder prefers to crack wise on flicks like Platoon and Rambo.

Speedman is teamed in this blockbuster with Aussie method actor Kirk Lazarus (the irrepressible Robert Downey Jr., who is dyed in an approximation of an African-American), and Jeff Portnoy (Jack Black), a comedian tormented by his string of fart-joke box-office smashes.

On location in the jungles of southeast Asia, the trio doesn't know that the studio has axed the epic, as the daft director follows the instructions of the hard-bitten but equally daft vet screenwriter (Nick Nolte) to "put those boys in the s--t."

Bringing new meaning to the term guerilla filmmaking, the "Milli Vanilli of patriots" find themselves lost at the heart of a Golden Triangle dope-production hub, which is led by a prepubescent renegade raised on bad Hollywood movies. The trio (backed up by capable cohorts Brandon T. Jackson and Jay Baruchel) literally act themselves out of harm's way, thanks to Tug's previous role as a mentally challenged farm hand.

The 180—a Second Opinion: From pluralizing Viet Cong to Tug's role as "Simple Jack," Tropic Thunder might not be the film to take your vet uncle or your overly PC girlfriend to see, but it's among the funniest Hollywood blockbusters in recent memory.

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