Time off - Film

Tropic Thunder

Ben Stiller's previous movies - Zoolander and the magnificent Dodgeball - managed to stay just the right side of obnoxiously laddish, making broad- brush jokes about fatties and hairy Eastern Europeans, but with enough heart and quirky individuality to make them palatable.

There's a chance he may have strayed over the line with his latest directorial outing, Tropic Thunder, in which he plays Tugg Speedman, a self-admiring action hero intent on reviving his career with one last hurrah in a dodgy Vietnam war epic.

The film has attracted criticism for a blacked-up turn from Robert Downey Jr, as ultra-sincere actor Kirk Lazarus, liberal use of the word "retard" (after Tugg fails to win an Oscar for his performance as a loveable idiot in the film "Simple Jack"), and Tom Cruise's lively, although according to The New York Times, slightly suspect turn as a loathsome Jewish movie producer.

There have been mixed reactions from reviewers and bloggers, with one scribe dismissing it as "the worst film ever", while Variety magazine conceded it "undeniably provokes quite a few laughs" for its bad taste audience-baiting.

The twist is that Tugg and co get targeted by some real-life drug guerrillas and have to transform their manufactured machismo into true- life grit. Jack Black, Nick Nolte and Steve Coogan join Stiller behind the camouflage net. Tropic Thunder is in cinemas from today.

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