Yes, Tropic Thunder Is Offensive…And Hilarious

In the new comedy tour de force Tropic Thunder, Robert Downey Jr. portrays a dude playing a dude pretending to be another dude. Oh, yeah…and he’s African-American. But that’s not why advocacy groups have been up in arms. The protestors du jour (I’m on a pseudo-French kick here) are disability advocacy groups who have called for a boycott of the film for its use of the word “retard” and its over-the-top comedic portrayal of a mentally challenged young man.

For those of you who have missed all the hype, Tropic Thunder is about a film crew and a zany troupe of  actors making a Vietnam film. During the movie, we learn that Ben Stiller’s character, a Sly Stallone-style action hero,  portrayed a character named “Simple Jack” in a failed attempt at crossing over into serious acting. The reason for Stiller’s failure, according to Downy Jr.’s character, is a mind-blowingly unexpected and offensive tirade I won’t spoil here.

Now, I can understand being  sensitive. But I think it’s fair to put down the picket signs here, as the entire movie is one huge dose of inappropriate humor that recalls Blazing Saddles. And EVERYONE gets handed a piece of mockery pie – from Tom Cruise’s disgusting stereotype of a greedy Jewish studio boss on down. Nothing is taken seriously, a point which is very clear from the first reel. Matthew McConaughey, who plays a supporting role in the film, agrees on his blog, saying: “If you see it, I think you’ll agree that all the touchy humour is in context, and in no way mean spirited or irresponsible.”

Is this the funniest movie ever? No way. But is it really any more offensive than the humor of Mel Brooks or South Park? Not a chance. My advice, if you’re not so inclined to see this film, is to put the picket signs down and just go see Wall-E instead. Unless you’ve got a thing against a robot who’s friends with a cockroach. Then I don’t know what to tell ya.


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