By Jarrod Castillo, Athletics Editor
On Aug.13, 2008, the world was blessed with the release of perhaps one of the more interesting action-comedies to grace the silver screen: “Tropic Thunder.”
For those who have yet to lay their eyes on this masterpiece, here is a quick refresher of the Ben Stiller-directed film. Stiller plays Tugg Speedman, a fledgling actor looking to regain his former glory as one of Hollywood’s premier leading men.
In an attempt to get his career back on track, Stiller elects to join a war film that is mired with problems from the very beginning, from going over budget to being kidnapped by a drug cartel. It’s essentially a movie that parodies the extensive problems that the crew of the 1979 classic “Apocalypse Now” faced when they were filming.
Joining Speedman in this ordeal is Jeff Portnoy (Jack Black), a reimagining of Chris Farley; Alpa Chino (Brandon T. Jackson), who portrays himself to be the ultimate ladies’ man; and Kevin Sandusky (Jay Baruchel), a relatively unknown actor trying to make a name for himself.
Perhaps the most interesting character is Kirk Lazarus (Robert Downey Jr.). Lazarus is an Australian actor known for going the extra mile in order to fully immerse himself in his character when filming. For this particular film, Lazarus elected to put on a quasi-blackface to portray one of the main characters in the faux film, Lincoln Osiris.
Even back in 2008, having an actor, even if it was a fictional one, play a character in blackface was risky. At one point, Stiller considered having a black actor play a white man but changed his mind.
Apart from the few hiccups that occur with regards to the sensitivity of having a portrayal of blackface and the aforementioned R-word, “Tropic Thunder” is a comedy that is sure to illicit some laughs.
“A white guy playing this black role to challenge himself the most, in a way that’s wrong-headed and going too far, to me that was the funnier idea,” Stiller said in an article by Reuters.
In an interview with The Georgia Straight, Downey Jr. said that Stiller came up to him and laid out the potential pitfalls and consequences that could occur should he fail to deliver a respectful character.
“It needs to be done right because the risks are far greater than the rewards. The reward is that you make a comedy that people like and the risk is much more far-reaching,” Downey Jr. concluded.
Nowadays, regardless of the names attached to it and genre, it is perceived to be in, a movie like this would get lambasted by the media, critics and public alike. The fact that one of Stiller’s in-movie characters goes by the name of “Simple Jack” and the word “retard” is floated around so casually makes this one of the more complicated movies to determine where it stands on the pantheon of comedy masterpieces.
That being said, the movie still holds up well for the most part, 10 years later. Apart from the few hiccups that occur with regards to the sensitivity of having a portrayal of blackface and the aforementioned R-word, “Tropic Thunder” is a comedy that is sure to illicit some laughs.