Directed by: Ben Stiller
Written by:Ben Stiller, Justin Theroux, Etan Cohen
Starring: Ben Stiller, Robert Downey Jr, Jack Black, Steve Coogan, Jay Baruchel, Brandon T. Jackson, Nick Nolte, Danny McBride
Released: August 21, 2008
Grade: A-

Let me start with a piece of advice – if you’re going to see this movie, make sure you aren’t late.  The film opens with three fake movie trailers which introduce us to the characters of Tugg Speedman (Stiller), Kirk Lazarus (Downey Jr) and Jeff Portnoy (Black).  They set the tone for what is a very funny movie.

When the “real” film begins, we find that these three Hollywood stars are shooting a war movie in Vietnam.  It is based on the book written by Four Leaf Tayback (Nolte) and tells of his brave escape from the Viet Cong.  The director, Damien Cockburn (Coogan), is struggling to keep his film on track.  The shooting is behind schedule and he’s having trouble with his leading actors.

Cockburn realises that the only way he can save the movie is by changing the attitude of the cast.  He arranges for a helicopter to drop the stars into a remote part of the Vietnam jungle.  He gives them a map and a shooting script and says that it’s up to them to find their way home.  They will be secretly filmed the whole time.  Cockburn’s new directorial approach is meant to give the film a realistic, gritty feel.

Within minutes of landing, Speedman, Lazarus and Portnoy find themselves under attack from a local militia group.  They think it is all part of the movie and start fighting back.  What they don’t realise is that their attackers are real!  They are guarding a nearby drug crop and are heavily armed.  When will they wise up to the fact that their adventure is no longer a movie?

There are a few holes in the story but the humour more than compensates.  Writers Ben Stiller, Justin Theroux and Etan Cohen have come up with a politically incorrect comedy which pokes fun at the heavyweights within Hollywood.  I speak of actors, writers, directors, producers and even agents.

The film also targets a number of minority groups and I’m sure this will offend some viewers.  I didn’t mind the jokes though.  There’s an undercurrent to the whole movie which hints at something deeper.  It may look like an insanely silly comedy but it paints an interesting picture as to how the industry really works.  I’d love to know what the heavyweights in Hollywood think of it.

The strongest quality of the film is the stellar acting from the cast.  Robert Downey Jr, Ben Stiller and Jack Black are all brilliant.  Their characters all have psychological issues and they make the most of the problems for comedic effect.  There are also some well-timed cameos.  I won’t mention names but there’s one big-name star who pops up a few times in the film and I think it’s the best thing he’s done in years.

2008 has been a good year for comedy so far with films such as Pineapple Express, Kung Fu Panda, Lars & The Real Girl, Charlie Wilson’s War and Forgetting Sarah MarshallTropic Thunder is another to add to that list.