Tropic Thunder Chizfilm Movie Reviews
August 17, 2008

Movie Stars, Not Mentally Challenged, Lampooned in “Tropic Thunder”

by Jonathan Chisdes

Whenever I hear that a group is protesting a movie, my ears perk up and I think, “What? What’s this? What film is so shaking the foundations of society that I must absolutely plop down my $9.50 to go see it?” Ironic, huh?

Just in case you haven’t heard, a coalition of non-profit organizations that advocate for the rights of the mentally challenged are urging a boycott of the movie “Tropic Thunder” which was just released in theatres this week. They claim that the film unfairly lampoons those who suffer from mental retardation.

The irony here is that the film has very little to do with actual mental retardation. Mainly it’s about a crazy Hollywood studio making a war picture starring self-obsessed, egotistical, vain actors. One of those actors (Ben Stiller, who also co-wrote and directed “Tropic Thunder”) happens to have played a mentally retarded character in a previous film. It’s a relatively minor point in “Tropic Thunder” and only comes up briefly three or four times. It’s shown in a flashback, a brief mock recreation of the part, and there’s a joke contrasting his performance with that of other actors who played mentally handicapped characters, like Tom Hanks in “Forrest Gump,” Sean Penn in “I Am Sam,” and Peter Sellers in “Being There.” The only people in the movie who actually liked Stiller’s performance as the retarded boy are a community of jungle drug lords. After all, this is a comedy.

Granted, I don’t know anyone who is retarded, and who am I to tell someone else whether or not they should feel offended? But I thought Stiller’s idiocy was making fun of bad acting, not retarded people. At least the way it looked to me.

In my view, the producers of “Tropic Thunder” aren’t saying that Stiller’s ridiculous performance is an accurate representation of mentally challenged people; rather it’s what a bad actor would do with such a part. And it criticized those who are insensitive to the plight of the mentally challenged. The character may be disrespectful, but that doesn’t mean the film is.

Personally, I thought the movie, as a whole, was hilarious. Quite frankly, I laughed my a** off. It lampooned vanity, drug addicts, drug lords, action films, special effects, Oscar winners, Oscar losers, actors who get lost in their roles, rap stars, rap videos, fart jokes, people who laugh at fart jokes, and studio execs who put money before life. Perhaps members of these groups, if they cannot laugh at themselves, should boycott.

I think the group which should have been most offended was movie stars. Clearly, they came off the worst. Yea, right; I can just see a picket line of Robert Redfords, Russell Crowes, Harrison Fords, and Nicole Kidmans carrying signs proclaiming, “We’re really not that vain!”

Seriously, I think Hollywood does a good job of laughing at itself and making fun of its own superficiality. “Tropic Thunder” is just one in a long line of films like “Sweet Liberty,” “New Suit,” “The Disappearance of Kevin Johnson,” “For Your Consideration,” “Cecil B. DeMented,” and “The Independent,” which mock the industry and culture of movie-making.

So don’t take the boycott seriously. Go see “Tropic Thunder,” even if you have to cross a picket line. And be prepared to laugh like crazy at the very industry which made the movie. Now that’s ironic.

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