Even if it has come a lot later than usual this year, it's still depressing to announce that, once again, it is now mathematically impossible for the Baltimore Orioles to win 100 games (but the chase to .500 goes on with spirit!)
But that, of course, is not the order of the day. That would be "Tropic Thunder" which - given my fears about how bad it might be - turned out to be surprisingly satisfying and close-to-first-rate satire of Hollywood action moviemaking.
I liked this one even more than "Pineapple Express," which I certainly didn't expect, but it's still not without its faults. First off, I'm still immature enough to get a kick out of grossout humor (I still say the first "Jackass" movie is the "Citizen Kane" of that genre), but I'm beginning to find I just don't have the stomach any more when it crosses the line to simply disgusting. "Tropic Thunder" does this at several points, the worst of which involved writer/director/star Ben Stiller and a certain body part of Steve Coogan's (I won't spoil this revolting bit for you.)
And my second beef was with Jack Black who, for the first time, simply annoyed me on the big screen. Even if you like him, which I definitely still do, try and think of his most annoying characteristics. Now think of all of those amplified because he's tripping balls on cocaine, and you'll come close to how unbearable he is in this movie. For a much better performance by Jack Black as a drug addict, flash back to Alison Maclean's simply charming little flick "Jesus' Son," which is well worth a rental if you haven't seen it.
All that said, there's a lot more to like than to loathe in "Tropic Thunder," and almost all of it revolves around Robert Downey Jr. (though Ben Stiller holds his own and just made me laugh out loud with his heart of darkness with panda breakdown.) Surely everyone has seen Downey in blackface as meticulous method actor Kirk Lazarus by now, but I can tell you there's much more funny here than you've seen in the trailer. The best part of all is that he talks like no person - black or white - you'll probably ever meet, and it's hilarious when Brandon T. Jackson as rapper-turned-actor Alpa Chino (get it?) calls him out on it (and speaking of the fine line between gross and disgusting, two words: Booty Sweat (very funny!)
Drawing even more fire going in to this one was the use of the word "retard" but, and perhaps I'm just extremely insensitive, it works perfectly well in the framework of hollywood satire. If Stiller had simply left it at his portrayal of "Simple Jack" it would have been a mild chuckle-inducer, but once again it's Downey who elevates this to a fair target with his speech about going "full retard." The only people who should really be cringing rather than laughing at this are the moviemakers who know they're the real butt of this joke.
The bottom line: It's a bit too disgusting and definitely repetitive, but "Tropic Thunder" is also the best satire about the business of making movies since "The Player." Peace out.