Ben Stiller, Jack Black, ...
Credit: Merie Wallace

My beef with Ben Stiller (as a director) has always been that he’s brilliant at pop culture parodies but not at the parts of his movies (or the old Fox Ben Stiller Show) that are about actual human characters interacting. I fear that’s what’s going to happen with Tropic Thunder, whose trailer (playing at the film’s official website) begins as a dead-on parody of every Vietnam movie trailer you’ve ever seen before it devolves into standard farce about clueless showbiz egotists. Similarly, the idea of Robert Downey Jr. as an Oscar-winning star who dons blackface to play a role written for a black actor sounds like a bold satirical idea on paper, but seeing it executed here makes me wonder if the joke in its execution is really on target. The only one here bringing the crazy in a way that makes me want to see more of what’s up Stiller’s sleeve is a hilarious Nick Nolte. Otherwise, I’m afraid Tropic Thunder may turn into precisely the kind of bloated action monstrosity that it’s making fun of.

Anyone here think Stiller, Downey, and Co. can pull this off? Or is this Aug. 15 release doomed to flail and sputter out in the late-summer movie jungle?