Writer/director Stiller, along with co-writers Justin Theroux and Etan Cohen, exhibit a great batting average for their digs at Hollywood self-importance. Robert Downey Jr., who already has the year's biggest comeback story with Iron Man, steals the movie as the dedicated Lazarus, who, in one memorable scene, tells Speedman his theory on just how far an Oscar performance should go without tipping into disrespectful territory. Viewers will have to make their own assessment of Downey's performance, although criticism of its potentially offensive elements might be muted due to Alpa Chino's withering assessment of Lazarus' affectations.

Tropic Thunder is full of laughs, but its language is very "R"-rated. While Stiller is fine in the lead role, Jack Black's character wears thin quickly, and Baruchel has difficulty breaking through. Those weaker performances are far outweighed, however, by Downey's superb turn. How interesting it will be if this performance earns Downey an Oscar nomination, which would very likely pit him against Heath Ledger—The Joker in the latest Batman film. Academy members would then have to weigh a strong performance from an actor who died tragically from a drug overdose against a major comeback performance from an actor who has conquered his drug addiction and returned stronger than ever before.

CAUTIONS: 

  • Language/Profanity:  Lord's name taken in vain; lots of foul language; a man extends a middle finger; mentally challenged character is referred to as a "retard."
  • Drugs/Alcohol:  A drug-obsessed actor goes through withdrawal and is tempted with drugs late in the film; a group of drug-runners holds one of the actors for ransom.
  • Sex/Nudity:  A movie spoof about gay monks; plenty of bawdy talk; actors pretend to urinate and break wind; discussion of pornography business; music video for "Booty Sweat" spoofs sexual rap videos; reference to a "Skinemax" movie in which one of the actors appeared; an actor says everyone is gay "once in a while"; an offer of oral sex.
  • Violence/Disturbing Imagery:  Movie-within-movie helicopter attack and images of severely wounded soldiers; comical appearance of a man with no hands; a grenade-related death; an actor treats a severed head cavalierly, as if it were a prop; lots of gunfire; bayoneting; a prisoner is whipped, burned with a cigar and stabbed.