Tropic Thunder

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(2008) ★★★

BBC1: Saturday 6 June, 11.20pm

Running over budget and behind schedule, harassed film-maker Steve Coogan takes his pampered Hollywood cast – Ben Stiller, Jack Black and a blacked-up Robert Downey Jr – into the jungles of Vietnam… and into the middle of a real drugs war. The overweening pride and vanity of ambitious actors is mocked in a big-budget comedy that teeters intriguingly between farce and fiasco. It’s not side-splittingly funny although, funnily enough, sides are split and guts are spilled in the graphic FX. The prevailing tone is not so much Apocalypse Now as Team America, the puppet show that mocked Hollywood stars far more savagely than this self-consciously outrageous insider job (Tom Cruise pops up in a bizarre cameo as a repulsive studio executive). Ben Stiller’s been waiting years to make this film – he never forgave Oliver Stone for dismissing him at an audition for the Oscar-winning Vietnam picture Platoon. But it’s not the combat footage that’s funny here, nor Downey’s drug-addled Aussie poser. It’s the Forrest Gump stuff (which prompted angry US protests) and the mock trailers that open the film, all of which Stiller nails perfectly.

Certificate: 15
Duration: 120min