( Max score: 100 )
Ben Stiller, Jack Black and Robert Downey Jr. lead an ensemble cast in Tropic Thunder, an action comedy about a group of self-absorbed actors who set out to make the most expensive war film. After ballooning costs force the studio to cancel the movie, the frustrated director refuses to stop shooting, leading his cast into the jungles of Southeast Asia, where they encounter real bad guys.
I saw this in the theater when it was out earlier this year and got a kick out of it. If you're not a fan of the over the top dialogue and physical humor of Ben Stiller or Jack Black's tendency toward ostentatious and sometimes overstated energy then you probably won't care for Tropic Thunder. On the other hand, you might just find it fun nevertheless because of the incredibly funny performance turned in by Robert Downey Jr. and the very different and equally entertaining cameo by Tom Cruise as studio mogul Les Grossman. Five actors are dropped into the jungle in Asia under the belief that they are filming a big budget action film but in reality they are dropped there to experience real dangers and fears in the hopes of inspiring them. Four of the actors are well established and feature action star Tugg Speedman (Stiller), comedy star Jeff Portnoy (Black), rapper/entrepreneur/actor Alpa Chino (Jackson), and award winning dramatic actor Kirk Lazarus (Downey Jr.). The director's intent was to capture their reactions and performances using hand held and hidden cameras. The problems arise after a mishap that leaves them stranded but still under the belief that they are shooting. They encounter a ruthless band of local drug traffickers known as the Flaming Dragon who mistake them for DEA agents. This puts them in a dangerous and potentially lethal situation that requires them to use their skills to rectify if they hope to make it out alive.This is a rather silly film but that certainly doesn't make it any less entertaining. Jack Black's portrayal of Heroine addicted Jeff Portnoy was a crack up. Robert Downey Jr. was of course the standout among the four stranded actors. His combination of comedic timing and staunch dedication to being the character within a character just worked so well. Like him or not you have to give credit where it is due and Tom Cruise did a great job in his small but integral role as the very direct, grumpy and rather portly studio mogul Les Grossman. This unrated Director's Cut adds 14 additional minutes to the film. It really didn't anything other than some additional scene expansion and one or two shorter sequences that didn't change the story. Tropic Thunder is a laugh out loud comedy that isn't always politically correct but maintains enough etiquette that it doesn't approach what some might deem offensive. I found that I enjoyed it even more the second time around.
This unrated film contains pervasive language, violence, and drug references.
Tropic Thunder comes to Blu-ray Disc from Paramount featuring 1080p AVC encoded video that has an average bitrate of 24 mbps and lossless Dolby TrueHD 5.1 channel audio that has an average bitrate of 3.6 mbps.
This presentation is reminiscent of what I saw in the theater and looks superb. This is the type of visually impressive high definition video that the Blu-ray Disc format aspires to. The level of detail provided visual acuity that appeared nearly infinite. Images had exquisite depth, resolute sharpness and fine rendering during close ups that was unquestionable. The various shades of green and sepia tones within the lush jungles, landscapes and military uniforms were cleanly rendered with excellent tonal separation and vivid hues. Colors were deeply saturated with resplendent and eye catching primary highlights. Flesh tones were natural and well delineated with incredible lifelike texture and complexional divergence. Blacks were dynamic, stable and inky with discernible shadow detail and low light image penetration. There is a scene shot at night around a campfire as the group devises a rescue plan. There is an upward camera shot of Lazarus (Downey Jr.) as he is speaking. The glow of the fire on his face illuminates his features. This shot/sequence looks stunningly detailed as it brings out the subtle nuance in his facial characteristics as it appears against the deep black of the sky and shadowy structure of the jungle behind him. On a few occasions I noticed what appeared to be some minor edge enhancement but it was far from objectionable and never interfered with fidelity.
The lossless Dolby TrueHD sound mix featured definitive front channel separation and opulent clarity. Soundstage depth and imaging across the left, right and center channels was excellent. This gave the multitude of directional sounds and dialogue deep room penetration, high level perception of detail, and appropriate near field placement. It also elevated the sonic refinement of the film's music. The surround channels were used primarily to augment the sound field emanating from the main channels and to solidify directional panning sequences via use of ambient and discrete sound placement. The delivery was top notch and never felt shallow or lacking in spatial dimension. Low frequency effects had solid weight and deep extension that resonated well in the room with tangible authority. This was an invigorating audio presentation that mated well with the source material and seemed to accurately reflect the film's theatrical performance.
Tropic Thunder is an entertaining comedy that has moments of hilarity. I wouldn't say that it brings an entirely fresh concept to the genre but its take has unique appeal that makes it fun. It manages to successfully mix action and comedy into well balanced blend that works. Yes it's silly and nonsensical but that is part of its charm. Its Blu-ray disc presentation from Paramount delivers the goods and features exemplary audio quality and superlative video high definition video that is sure to please discerning enthusiasts. Fans can look forward to a boatload of bonus supplements including BD-Live enabled content.