Mr. Movie

Thunderous laughs for 'Tropic Thunder'

Meet the movie that knocks off The Dark Knight.

And Tropic Thunder proves that spoofs can not only be funny, but they also can be smart. Not that the humor found in this terrific comedy can be explained. Adjectives don’t quite get to the heart of the comic set-ups that make even the super-serious Tom Cruise shine like he hasn’t shone in years.

Ben Stiller, Robert Downey Jr., and Jack Black play rich, famous actors struggling with nose-diving careers.

They all hope a Vietnam War movie will give them a kick-start. Downey’s Kirk Lazarus is so desperate that he undergoes a skin operation to turn it black so he can play an African-American soldier.

By mid-production, the movie isn’t doing well, so the director hides cameras in the jungle and tells the actors to pretend they’re real soldiers. They run into heroin manufacturers and thinking they’re actors, engage them in battle.

I rarely laugh out loud. Even more rare is laughing loud and often. I laughed from the opening scenes with the spoof trailers through the closing credits. And at everything.

Downey has creds and he’s always at the top of his game even when the project isn’t very good. Stiller — who also directs — and Black don’t have the best track records. Both are excellent comedians but they bomb when forced to carry a movie.

Tropic Thunder is total tag team and everybody gets to shine. The best bits belong to Downey as an actor so caught up in method acting that he doesn’t remember he’s really white and to an unrecognizable Tom Cruise in a very long cameo.

Cruise is a complete crack-up.

And none of this does Tropic Thunder justice. In a nutshell: it is snarfing, drool-running-down-your-chin, hurt-you-kind-of funny.

That’s all you need to know.

Mr. Movie rating: 5 stars

5 stars to 4 1/2 stars: Must see on the big screen

4 stars to 3 1/2 stars: Good film, see it if it's your type of movie.

3 stars to 2 1/2 stars: Wait until it comes out on video.

2 stars to 1 star: Don't bother.

0 stars: Speaks for itself

Rated R for language, violence, mature themes, drug use. It’s playing at the Columbia Mall 8.