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Tropic Thunder


Stars: Ben Stiller, Robert Downey Jr, Jack Black, Steve Coogan, Tom Cruise, Matthew McConaughey, Nick Nolte, Brandon T Jackson, Jay Baruchel, Danny McBride, Bill Hader, Tyra Banks, Christine Taylor, Tobey Maguire, Jon Voight, Jennifer Love Hewitt, Mickey Rooney, Jason Bateman, Alicia Silverstone, Kevin Pollak

Director: Ben Stiller

Apart from three hilarious mock-trailers that precede the main action, this is a one-joke film that has lots of sound and fury but more stars than funny lines.

Three actors whose careers are foundering, action star Tugg (Stiller), bodily-function comic Jeff (Black) and multi Oscar-winner Kirk (Downey Jr), contracted to do a Vietnam movie based on a 'true life' novel by a rugged war veteran (Nolte), are pitched into real jungle after their director (Coogan) has spectacularly blown an expensive action scene.

While Tugg's agent (McConaughey) frets back in LA, ruthless studio boss Les (manically played by an almost unrecognisable Cruise) insists the prima-donna cast be made to suffer. Naturally, the actors encounter a real-life drug-dealing rebel group who kidnap Tugg and force him to re-enact his worst role, as 'Simple Jack', to entertain them.

Despite loads of action and a rattling pace, this is one of those films where the actors seem to be having more fun than the audience. And some of the dialogue would undoubtedly raise bigger laughs if you could actually hear it. Major offender here is Downey, who is otherwise deliciously on the mark as the Australian superstar who has 'pigmented up' to play a black American soldier. It's all frantic and in-your-face. Missiles explode everywhere - but too few of them hit the funny-bone.

David Quinlan

USA 2008. UK Distributor: Paramount (DreamWorks). Colour by deluxe.
107 minutes. Widescreen. UK certificate: 15.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 0, Violence/Horror 1, Drugs 1, Swearing 2.

Review date: 13 Sep 2008