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Tropic Thunder 

A satire of Hollywood vainglory.

Cries of protest over meanness in Tropic Thunder need perspective. It's a satire reflecting Hollywood vainglory---of course it's offensive. That Ben Stiller put this into a major summer comedy is only bettered by how good a movie it is. Fake trailers kick things off by pedalling egotistic junk, with an accuracy for how many movies are made with the pretense that everyone who doesn't work in the film industry is an idiot. As a cadre of stars hit Vietnam to shoot a war film, the parody of actors' neuroses takes off. Stiller poked fun at celebrities' superficial needs in Zoolander, but reaching far beyond that one note gives Tropic Thunder the scope of an out-of-control epic. It becomes the things it's spoofing (casual racism, undeserved sentiment, unfelt values and visceral excess), achieving its complexity. It's only the characters who suffer in dimensionality as a result of Tropic Thunder's satiric nature. But that's all The Pineapple Express does better. Tropic Thunder is the first of the new breed of overhyped comedies that's of substance.

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