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DVD Review: Tropic Thunder (Unrated Director's Cut)


My Score4 out of 5
Tropic Thunder (Unrated Director's Cut)
Available November 18, 2008

My wife and I, along with a friend, saw the midnight showing of Tropic Thunder when it was release in theaters, and it was hilarious! Well, most of it. So now they have this DVD release with the director's cut, featuring like 13 minutes of extra footage or something. To be honest, on first watch of the DVD I only noticed a couple of changes from what I remembered. It wasn't until watching the film again with one of the commentaries (yep, there are two!) that I learned what all had been changed.

Some of the changes worked, some not so much, but mostly they were irrelevant. They didn't make it a whole lot better or a whole lot worse. The movie was funny in the theater, and it was just as funny at home. By far the best part is the opening few minutes where they introduce the main actors by means of fake commercials. The first one happens so slick that it takes a moment to dawn on you that this is a phony commercial and that the movie has actually started.

The story is about a group of actors, each with extremely different personalities and skill sets, all making a vietnam-era war picture, except that nothing is coming together right and they're already way over budget. So as a last ditch effort to save his movie, the director decides to whisk the actors away from their nice comfy trailers and drop them in the middle of a real jungle to film their scenes with handheld cameras and hidden cameras in the trees. Yeah, it sounds preposterous, but it sure is a good setup for laughs!

It doesn't take most of the actors long to discover that they've accidentally stumbled into something serious, beyond the scope of the film they were making, so now they must pool their collective acting knowledge to figure a way out of this mess. The fact that the action star (played by Ben Stiller) still thinks the whole thing is fake doesn't help matters any, nor does the withdraw symptoms of the drug-addicted comedy star (played by Jack Black).

But truly, the real standout talent in this film is the Australian method actor (played by Robert Downey Jr.) who had his skin surgically altered so he could play an african-american character. Downey's performance was simply amazing as a stereotypical black man, and was enhanced by his constant interaction with the true black man on the team. But Robert Downey Jr. isn't the only one to get a massive makeup makeover, as you'll notice when you spot an almost unrecognizable Tom Cruise.

The only part I felt could have probably been better was the opening, after the fake commercials, when we see the actors filming the movie. Not only was there not a whole lot of comedy material going on here, but by now we all know how movies are made. They are done with take after take after take, not in one giant sequential scene with tons of special effects constantly going off. This is a minor issue, though, and it happens toward the beginning of the film, which is good because then it won't detract the movie later on.

The two-disc edition contains a bunch of extra features, some good, some boring. I found a lot of the behind-the-scenes featurettes to be quite plain. We've seen enough of these things to know how movies are made, and these didn't really add any personality to keep them interesting. There are deleted scenes and an alternate ending, but they didn't really add anything either. You know how when you watch deleted and extended scenes and afterwards say "good decision cutting those"? Exactly.

There is also the makeup test for Tom Cruise, which I won't spoil for those who haven't seen this yet, but it was cool to see how it changed to the final version. And I don't know if you saw the MTV Movie Awards, but that skit that Stiller, Black, and Downey Jr. did is also included here. Oh, and I almost forgot, when watching the movie, be on the lookout to omages from many, many other films. I saw a lot the first time through, but caught even more upon second and third viewings. You could almost make it a drinking game!

This is definitely a good movie that you should see, though I don't think it really matters which version, the theatrical or the director's cut. Both will entertain.