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By David Poland

Hot Button Review – Tropic Thunder

Tropic Thunder strikes me as the ultimate example of Stars Gone Wild. Let

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36 Responses to “Hot Button Review – Tropic Thunder”

  1. Krazy Eyes says:

    I’ve disagreed with so many of your reviews lately that I can’t tell if this one has gotten me disappointed or even more excited to see Tropic Thunder. Good review though . . . I just don’t expect to agree with your assessment.

  2. LexG says:

    That late-in-the-review paragraph about a hypothetical updated, more scatalogical “Caddyshack” is absolutely awesome.

  3. mysteryperfecta says:

    Nice review. I’m not sure about 2008 being a seminal year where less became more than enough, though. Things go in cycles– some movie will kickstart a stale genre, and then at the apex audiences will reward some bloated cash-in.
    That, and we don’t even know whether audiences will reward Tropic Thunder.


    I’ve been reading you since the old days, but you have increasingly become that smug, stuck u, better than thou critic who loves to be the ONLY one that hates a high profile, universally loved movie. I’m beginning to lose trust in you Poland. This from the same man that love Soul Plane! And what’s with the Ebert bashing? Who cares if you disagree with him on what he found to be funny?? Is that another stupid attempt at proving you know better or something? Stop trying to be the next Dave Kehr or Rosenbaum and go back to the old Dave that I actually felt a connection with you smug poser.

  5. Noah says:

    Crazyeyeskilla (great handle, by the way), I can’t remember who said it – and I’ll probably misquote it – but it’s something like, “You can’t tell somebody to laugh if they don’t think something’s funny and you can’t tell somebody to get aroused if they’re not turned on.”
    In other words, what we find funny or sexy is somewhat unexplainable.

  6. Tofu says:

    This has just been a rough summer for Poland. Then again, Scott Holleran started giving out good reviews lately… The plot thickens.

  7. EthanG says:

    Hmm…ouch. I was looking forward to possibly a few straight weeks of decent comedies with Step Bros., Tropic Thunder, Pineapple, and maybe The Rocker…this makes me sad. And I disagree with people who say this has been a decent or regular year for film quality.
    Everytime a film like Tropic Thunder comes along looking so promising, it falls short, with a couple notable exceptions….people have gotten more used to lower quality.
    Here’s a good reason why it’s been a seminal year of dog crap though: This is the first year in the HISTORY OF THE ACADEMY AWARDS, where it’s pretty much guaranteed there won’t be a single nominee in the four major categories (Picture, Director, Lead Acting) from a film released theatrically before August 1. That’s just a mind bending idea to me…

  8. Rothchild says:

    The movie is a little (or a lot) self-indulgent, but it’s super fucking funny. I was in physical pain from laughing so much. There’s some brilliant moments and performances in this movie. Even McCoughnahey is hysterical!

  9. Joe Leydon says:

    EthanG: Well, if Dark Knight gets a Best Picture nomination…

  10. doug r says:

    Well, I hope it’s a brilliant bloated mess-it’s only fair since it’s parodying other brilliant bloated messes…

  11. Geoff says:

    This HAS been a rough summer for Dave – I don’t get it, the guy got married. But hey, I keep thinking about Roger Ebert and his apparent rough summer in ’92 when he got married and had to retract his previous earlier negative review of Unforgiven.
    Thing is, I have seen my share of films this summer and have not noticed any drop-off in quality. Especially compared to last summer – what was so good besides Bourne and Once? The comedies were also good – Knocked Up and Superbad.
    But most of the big sequels were crap and there were no big, pop entertainments as good as Dark Knight and Iron Man.
    I also don’t get Dave’s continued mission against Dark Knight – in the review, he said he thought it was a terrific film. Figured he would be pleased that audiences were so largely responding to a “terrific film.” Think about the other films that have grossed at that level the past few years – Spiderman, Revenge of the Sith, Passion, Shrek 2, Pirates 2, Return of the King – honestly, Dave, wouldn’t you say TDK was better than most of those films, if not all of them?
    He was never going to be a real fan of Tropic Thunder, though, never a real fan of Ben Stiller. But I would be surprised if Pineapple Express does not get a rave – Dave’s overdue to like something.

  12. IOIOIOI says:

    Geoff: he’s a hater. You read his responses to me in the other thread. He acts as if anyone seeing greatness in the Dark Knight is getting off for the first time. When really… that’s a bullshit hater stance, and ignores this is not my first rodeo. I know the haps, but I know greatness when I see it. So fuck the haters. If they do not get the GAME.
    Sort of like people not getting that LIMO RIDING, JET FLYING, SPACE MOUNTAIN PROVIDIN… WOO!!!!!!!!!! Is a part of a legendary wrestler’s repertoire. Thus not getting the joke. Tool? Yeah… you.
    It’s good to see other people calling out Mr. Poland besides me. Take it down. Take it all down.

  13. David Poland says:

    It has been a profoundly mediocre summer.
    I’m not unhappy, I’m not angry, I’m not hating. I just haven’t seen many movies worth thinking about for more than 30 minutes after the movie.
    There has been nothing anywhere near the class of Unforgiven to feel bad about panning. Dark Knight, really good. Wall-E, excellent. Speed Racer, joyous family kink. After that, what? Seriously? What?
    If you get off on Wanted, God bless you, but don’t try to tell me it’s a good movie.
    Please… all this whining… tell me who thinks there is a movie this summer past Dark Knight, Wall-E, and Iron Man that you really care about… really care…

  14. IOIOIOI says:

    The Fall. Oh damn… I just sunk David Poland’s Battleship.
    Hold on! We have just got this urgent message from Camp Farci. It reads; “GO SEE THE WACKNESS MOTHERFUCKERS!” After that, it stops, and goes on about people seeing TDK too much. Lame.
    Again, the point on the figurative and proverbial table is this: THE MAIN FLICKS OF THE SUMMER have left you with the blahs. Everything people will remember of this amazing Summer, like Red, Blue, and the Firestarter, you piss on routinely with the passion.
    It’s one thing if only CRAZY OL’ME noticed it, but other people are noticing it as well. You read like a crotchied old man. Whose pining away for a squeeze in September.
    Shit, did you not post on this forum that you wish you could go past Summer and head straight to TO? I think you did. So, really, you are being ridiculously biased towards films that MEAN SOMETHING to most of the general population.
    It would be one thing if you were doing with it with style and grace, but you read like a total and utter dick. You even now respond like a dick. Which leaves me wondering where in the fuck is the real David Poland, and who the hell are you?

  15. EthanG says:

    Scott…it would be a barrier breaker on par with Silence of the Lambs, Lord of the Rings and Beauty and the Beast…that’s for sure. But i’ll believe it when it happens. It’s more likely than the other scenarios I’ve heard…Nolan for director (though he deserves it), Wall-E for picture, Downey Jr. for actor…but I think it’s most likely that none of those happen.

  16. IOIOIOI says:

    Let me reiterate: it’s one thing to be dislike a movie. It’s another thing to SALT THE EARTH in response to people who like the movie after you stated YOU LIKED THE MOVIE!
    There are simply ways of doing things when you slag other bloggers all the time for being douchebags. If they all suck, if they are all lame, and if they are doing a diservice to what you do on a daily basis. Why act worse then they do? Why so… mean? I get the anger. The vitriol… not so much.
    So, yeah, I may be the wrong person to state this, but I do not have a blog. I am a poster. This means I can ramble on about my greatness at Soul Calibur, and you do not have to read it. You can skip over it, call me a tool, and refer to me a troll.
    This does not change the fact that Mr. Poland has gone out of his fucking way to pick more fights, call out more people, and be more of a pris than anyone on this blog all Summer. He’s better than this, we all know that he is, and that’s the point.

  17. IOIOIOI says:

    Ethan: I agree that it’s doubtful, but it’s looking like a soft year. Sure, there could be a sleeper out there waiting to drop the AWESOME on our heads, but people are seeing awesome at a record rate right now.
    So, Academy, what you gonna do brothers and sisters? What you gonna do? When everyone will be expecting certain nominations and will be pissed if they feel… screwed.
    Yeah it’s a stretch. Roll with it. Sort of like the Academy hating on David Fincher. The crazy buggers.

  18. David Poland says:

    Forgot Hancock…

  19. David Poland says:

    IO… yawn.
    If you make up your opinion based on popularity or, as some critics do, based on fear of being “on the outs” with what’s popular, so be it.
    Not me. Not now. Not ever.
    It’s possible I took Iron Man from a bad angle as I might have Die Hard 4 last summer. But The Dark Knight? It’s not a question mark. So are we really fighting about Incredible Hulk and Tropic Thunder? Those movies make me out of touch? Yeah. Uh-huh.
    And yes, IO, Wackness is a good call. Not sure I like it as much as you, but it is worth mention.
    And The Academy doesn’t hate on David Fincher… they don’t like arch, violent movies. They like heroic epics that have a touch of violence or movies that scream “accepted artist.” The Coens got their due last year. If Benjamin Button is great, Fincher can get his this year.
    This ongoing bullshit about “if they disagree with ME, they are haters and out of touch” is infantile. People need to learn to disagree without hating, as you, IO, act out in blind rage (albeit with some comic verve) more than anyone I deal with on a regular basis.
    And I slag on two guys who went way, way out of their way to piss all over the blogosphere (and specifically, people like you, IO) and now are trying to “own” it. More importantly, I offered more about the actual subject than about them. And I slag on Nikki, who has truly become The Joker of e-journalism. Who else have I written a negative word about this summer?

  20. IOIOIOI says:

    You forgot Hellboy II. This makes us all squarsies. Again, you my dawg and all, but you occassionally have to call a spade a spade. Sort of like this vendetta you have against TDK. You know… vendetta… like that bullshit Guardian TDK piece/review you are linking, that’s based around the WSJ’s completely MURDOCHED review of TDK. Yeah, that’s helpful, and really is you trying to prove a point.
    Again, it’s your world, but you are better than this. Me, I am a crazy bastard, that does not go after windmills. I go after prequel-haters and fuckers hating on Zodiac. The point remains: you are coming off more bitter than a bushel of freakin lemons this Summer. Not even the magical shakey cam directing of Peter Berg that pissed off my girlfriend, could shake you from your cranky-coma.

  21. IOIOIOI says:

    1) “And The Academy doesn’t hate on David Fincher… they don’t like arch, violent movies. They like heroic epics that have a touch of violence or movies that scream ‘accepted artist.’ The Coens got their due last year. If Benjamin Button is great, Fincher can get his this year.”
    Tell this to my boss, and he will still call “BULLSHIT.” He’s Fincher. How many Fincher’s do we have in the world? Michael Mann at least has a protege like Berg to work with, but Fincher went with Fred Durst! Thus leaving us with one freakin FINCHER! So the guy deserves his dap, and I doubt Benjy Button will get it for him. Why do I feel this way? An impression that I get.
    2) “This ongoing bullshit about ‘if they disagree with ME, they are haters and out of touch’ is infantile. People need to learn to disagree without hating, as you, IO, act out in blind rage (albeit with some comic verve) more than anyone I deal with on a regular basis.”
    I have been watching and loving cinema for close to a year and half into my life. Yet you dare respond to me finding greatness in a BATMAN film as me “GETTING OFF” for the first time? REALLY?
    It’s not that you do not like it as much as me. It’s not that you see flaws in it. When I see awesome. It’s the fact that you are being a DICK ABOUT IT. You are not the only one around here.
    It seems that some SPECIAL happening at the cineplex in JULY and not DECEMEMBER, has led to a breaking out of the douchebaggery. Which leaves some of us who disagree with a possible “WHAT THE FUCK?” attitude.
    That’s the point I bring up the word HATER. A hater is not someone who HATES something. He’s someone who to your face will go; “oh you were great in that” or “your awesome”, then as soon as you walk around the corner the motherfucker says; “Fuck him. I am better.” This is how you have been with fucking Iron Man and now with TDK.
    You give rather passing reviews or in the TDK more than passing reviews, then TURN THAT SHIT ON A DIME as soon as people start praising them. THAT’S A HATER.
    It’s not like this means much in this world. It’s not like it means much of anything really, but I do not read this blog or MCN for hater vendetta bullshit. Hell, I do not read it for bullshit any day of the week, but you are posting like a pissed off geek on a daily basis now.
    Sure, you have a reason to take the people down that you want brought down, but do not let it turn you into a dick in the process. The best part of reading your reviews is the way when you praise something… you really praise… but when you slam something… it gets the hammer.
    There’s been too much half-assed hammer lately. So come correct… as a reader for many years… please come correct. If it requires me sending you 20 bucks for a Hot Button hat. I will send you the 20 bucks. If it guarantees there’s no more windmillin to sit through.

  22. David Poland says:

    IO… I don’t do most of the links on the front page anymore… and the guy who does is a fan of TDK… as I am.
    I’m not better than this. I’m not worse than this. I don’t control the movies. When there is a bad run, I write more negative reviews. When there is a good run, it’s more positive.
    And still, every single time I sit down in a theater, I am planning my argument for loving the film I am about to see so very much. I want every one to be great.
    But alas…
    You could be my best friend or my worst enemy… makes no difference to me… if you need me to go from 80-85 on Dark Knight to 95-100 in order for me not to be “a hater,” then you are delusional, temporarily or permanently and trying to discuss it with you intellegently is 95-100% futile.

  23. Noah says:

    “It seems that some SPECIAL happening at the cineplex in JULY and not DECEMEMBER, has led to a breaking out of the douchebaggery.”
    Even if the film came out in December, it still wouldn’t change the fact that the Hong Kong sequence was utterly unnecessary or that Two-Face’s arc should have unfolded into the next film.

  24. LexG says:

    Noah, no offense, but you always seem like you’re just riding the dick and playing it safe with your posts. Yes, we’re all happy you have a job, and obviously you should respect the man who payz the billz. But a little more risk and individuality would be welcome… again, not hating, but you always seem like you’re sucking up a notch.

  25. As far as Tropic Thunder (which I have not seen), Poland’s thoughts on the inside baseball are probably true (ie –

  26. Noah says:

    Lex, I disagree with David all the time. I just choose to disagree in a way that I think will be the best way to argue my case (in other words, I like to present my case without using the words “it OWNED”). So if you feel like I’m sucking up, sorry to say, but I’m not getting paid so well as to be an obedient lapdog; if I agree, it’s because I truly agree.

  27. hcat says:

    I had looked forward to this but after the first trailer it had the Hudson Hawk Big Ego Project stink on it. It feels like an early eighties Burt Reynolds/Hal Needham project, where they spend too much money, break a lot of stuff, cast the entire film with their poker buddies (I almost expect there to be those little Irwin Allen cast boxes at the bottem of the poster), and think the mere prescence of the stars will provide the comedy without making any real jokes.

  28. Geoff says:

    I’m not calling you a hater or going to use the rhetoric that IOIOIOI is using, but seriously…..
    You LIKED Dark Knight, you said it was “terrific, very good, etc.” This isn’t a matter of a film that you did NOT like and every one else did. That’s what I don’t get.
    You threw a ton of Oscar hyperbole at V for Vendetta, just a couple of years ago – this stuff happens, people get excited, even you.
    And if you thought Wall-E was excellent, how come no mention of it, no review? And yet, you’re quick to post these savage jobs towards Tropic Thunder and Mummy. There seems to be a real negative undercurrent to your views, this summer, it’s obvious.
    Look, to each his own, right? If you really believe this summer is so much worse than other recent summers, fine. I just don’t see it. There have actually be some real quality big budget studio films appealing to adults and that’s a good thing – are you going to tell me that the success of The Dark Knight is going to make things worse????
    Perspective, man.

  29. IOIOIOI says:

    Dave: what Geoff said.
    Noah: I am not going to be hard on you, but your statement about Hong Kong and Harvey Dent lack insight. If you really thought about Hong Kong. You would get that Lao was incredibly important to what Bat and Gordon were trying to do with the mob. So it makes sense in the film, but you think it does not? Really? I wonder whose right in this argument? TIE GOES TO THE FILM!
    NEXT! TWO-FACE! This I can see. I can spot you this, but Harvey had a screw loose. He also had the most to lose. Thus making him so easily corruptible. He’s the city, Joker broke the city, but Batman had to give up his freedom to keep the city strong.
    So it all works in the context of the film, but folks like you love to ignore how the FILM WORKS in lue of what you believe would work. This makes discussing anything with people like you incredibly frustrating, but people live and learn. Here’s to your extrapolating skills maturing with age :D!
    No, I am not being condescending, but honest as to how I feel. Unlike Lex, I have one college degree, and do not feel your age makes you better or worse than me. It just makes you a part of a generation that I have a hard to figuring out.

  30. Noah says:

    IO, I think the whole subplot with Lao and the mob was kind of extraneous actually. What purpose does it really serve? The Joker was robbing banks and killing people, which should be more than enough motivation for Batman to spring into action. I think adding a character like Lao and having the mob be such an integral part of the story just made the whole movie more complicated than it needed to be. But, you see things differently and I accept that.
    You know, I was having a conversation with a friend of mine today who loved the movie. He said there were flaws but he still loved it anyway because of the visceral thrill he had watching it. I think when you love a movie, you’re willing to forgive its flaws. I liked the movie a lot and didn’t love it, so I saw a lot of the seams and couldn’t quite forgive them. Almost every movie is flawed, so it’s just about how much you’re willing to forgive.
    Anyway, I understand and accept your point of view IO and I hope you will understand and accept that not everybody saw the movie the same way as you did. And my age continues to be an issue for you, it seems, but at least I know it’s spelled “in lieu.”

  31. leahnz says:

    noah, ‘when you love a movie, you’re willing to forgive it’s flaws’. just wanted to agree, never was a truer thing said. when a movie hits you in the gut…love is blind


    Noah, you are officially my favorite new “critic” on this site. You write from the heart and the honesty comes through in every unpretentious word unlike our pal Dave who has gone way over the deep end. Dave has fallen in love with himself and out of love with the movies. It makes me sad. Keep up the good work Noah.

  33. Noah says:

    Crazyeyes, Leah, I really appreciate the kind words. With all the negativity that swirls around these boards and other boards like it, I can’t express to you how much it means to open up the inbox every once in a while and find a kind word; or to check the boards and find a nice note. Truthfully any columnist you read, if you enjoy their work, send them a note because they’ll be lying if they tell you it didn’t mean the world to hear that.
    Although, Crazyeyes, I happen to love what David writes about; it’s one of the reasons I wanted to work here in the first place. He looks at things through a different lens and while sometimes I disagree with him (okay, a lot), he is maddening because he makes solid points that I actually have to consider and can’t dismiss right away. And let me tell you, the man surely loves movies quite a bit; he just loves them in his own way, as we all do really. That’s the beauty, isn’t it?

  34. jeffmcm says:

    I’m quite certain that Noah and IOI are in the same generation.

  35. leahnz says:

    though polar opposites
    i feel a bit for david poland here, because he can’t really force himself to like the movies he’s seen of late any more than he does, and i assume he’s trying to be honest in his reviews, so maybe he’s got a bit of a sweaty summer wedgie up his butt but it’s not really any skin off anyone else’s nose (except maybe his new bride. sorry, couldn’t resist)

  36. Eric says:

    I saw Tropic Thunder tonight and I’m sorry to report that David is pretty much right on. It’s not bad– it’s an assortment of good ideas that are not executed very well. It’s also strangely plot-heavy but not very interested in making the plot work.
    Downey is the highlight, as anyone could have guessed, but almost all of his best moments were packed into that brilliant trailer.
    This is a big disappointment, because I was an early and eager defender of Zoolander.

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It shows how out of it I was in trying to be in it, acknowledging that I was out of it to myself, and then thinking, “Okay, how do I stop being out of it? Well, I get some legitimate illogical narrative ideas” — some novel, you know?

So I decided on three writers that I might be able to option their material and get some producer, or myself as producer, and then get some writer to do a screenplay on it, and maybe make a movie.

And so the three projects were “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep,” “Naked Lunch” and a collection of Bukowski. Which, in 1975, forget it — I mean, that was nuts. Hollywood would not touch any of that, but I was looking for something commercial, and I thought that all of these things were coming.

There would be no Blade Runner if there was no Ray Bradbury. I couldn’t find Philip K. Dick. His agent didn’t even know where he was. And so I gave up.

I was walking down the street and I ran into Bradbury — he directed a play that I was going to do as an actor, so we know each other, but he yelled “hi” — and I’d forgot who he was.

So at my girlfriend Barbara Hershey’s urging — I was with her at that moment — she said, “Talk to him! That guy really wants to talk to you,” and I said “No, fuck him,” and keep walking.

But then I did, and then I realized who it was, and I thought, “Wait, he’s in that realm, maybe he knows Philip K. Dick.” I said, “You know a guy named—” “Yeah, sure — you want his phone number?”

My friend paid my rent for a year while I wrote, because it turned out we couldn’t get a writer. My friends kept on me about, well, if you can’t get a writer, then you write.”
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“That was the most disappointing thing to me in how this thing was played. Is that I’m on the phone with you now, after all that’s been said, and the fundamental distinction between what James is dealing with in these other cases is not actually brought to the fore. The fundamental difference is that James Franco didn’t seek to use his position to have sex with anyone. There’s not a case of that. He wasn’t using his position or status to try to solicit a sexual favor from anyone. If he had — if that were what the accusation involved — the show would not have gone on. We would have folded up shop and we would have not completed the show. Because then it would have been the same as Harvey Weinstein, or Les Moonves, or any of these cases that are fundamental to this new paradigm. Did you not notice that? Why did you not notice that? Is that not something notable to say, journalistically? Because nobody could find the voice to say it. I’m not just being rhetorical. Why is it that you and the other critics, none of you could find the voice to say, “You know, it’s not this, it’s that”? Because — let me go on and speak further to this. If you go back to the L.A. Times piece, that’s what it lacked. That’s what they were not able to deliver. The one example in the five that involved an issue of a sexual act was between James and a woman he was dating, who he was not working with. There was no professional dynamic in any capacity.

~ David Simon