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August 12, 2008

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Dan

I'll be seeing this tonight; I scored some free tickets.

Personally, I suspect the ridiculous protests surrounding the "Simple Jack" gags (which so far sound to me like the definition of "missing the point") is going to be more compelling than any of the film's messages. But it looks amusing.

bill

Yeah, I just hope it's funny. Is that so much to ask, in these trying times?

cadavra

I liked this movie the first time I saw it...when it was called GALAXYQUEST.

bill

I liked "Galaxy Quest" the first time I saw it...when it was called "THREE AMIGOS"!

Bedheaded

Good review, Glenn. But here's a question: when was the last time Ben Stiller was considered "hip"? By my calculation, it was somewhere between "Permanent Midnight" and "The Royal Tennenbaums".

Jim

I liked "Three Amigos" the first time ... when it was called "The Three Caballeros"!

bill

I liked "The Three Caballeros" the first time...when it was called "The Bold Caballero"!

Glenn Kenny

"Galaxy Quest" was considerably more good-natured and good-hearted than "Thunder," which aims to sting hard, and by my lights ends up biting itself on the ass. But as I said, it's definitely got some laughs. Usually that's all that counts, which is why attempted satire can be a risky business...

Let's not forget everybody's favorite television executive, Guy Caballero...

bill

"What is this, toilet paper? What, did you write this thing is prison or something?"

Dan Coyle

I'm not sure I'll have the same reaction to the film as you did, Glenn, but you make a lot of good points. I'm always nervy about these sorts of things.

I'm reminded of how Stiller savagely caricatured Cruise on SNL... yet years later, he was doing sketches about Cruise's stunt double, with Cruise "in on it." That always bothered me.

bill

But if Cruise is able to laugh at himself -- I know, that seems unlikely, but it's possible -- then what's wrong with Stiller letting him in on it?

Glenn Kenny

Nothing wrong with a celebrity willing to laugh at him or herself—it's in line with the great traditions of showbiz. But it gets to a point—and it's particularly interesting as far as the Cruise and Stiller stuff went back in the day—wherein a celebrity's "willingness" to "laugh" at him/herself becomes a form of co-opting the folks who started the mocking. And making anything that had any genuine satiric merit rather beside the point.

It's almost always inevitable, in some sense. Look at some of the SCTV people in their subsequent careers. They're always fun to watch...but more than a few of them make their livings doing precisely the sort of dreck that their show used to so deftly skewer.

And in "Tropic Thunder," Cruise isn't laughing at himself so much as trying to skewer some of the people who don't always let him have his way.

bill

But as far as I'm concerned, as long as the comedy is still funny, I don't really care. When I look back at Stiller's early jabs at Cruise, and then think about the "Tom Crooz" stuff he did later, I don't really think "Well, but that takes all the bite out of his earlier stuff", even though I suppose it does. Because, when it comes right down to it, the targets of these jabs -- stars, their egos, their acting styles -- are pretty easy and unthreatening. It would seem a bit silly to me if Stiller's reaction to Cruise wanting to be in on the joke was, "Sorry, but my mockery of your performance in 'Rain Main' must remain pure."

Although, having said all that, I will admit that if Stiller were to join forces with Oliver Stone, his sketch "Oliver Stoneland" might start to look a little less funny. But I do think that Stone is a legitimate target for satire, whereas Cruise seems more of a target for spoof. It's an important distinction, you know.

Dan Coyle

I think it's a matter of...

When Stiller did Cruise on SNL with the bowling parody of Color of Money, I'd argue back then Stiller genuinely hated him. There seems a real contempt for Cruise's persona underlying the performance.

"Tom Cruise Dress Casual" is milder, and not as funny. Oh look, Cruise repeats himself a lot. Still a bit of nastiness there, but not as savage as the Yakoff Smirnoff parody on the same show (which Stiller profusely apologizes for in the commentary).

Then there's "Tom Crooz", which the target is deflected from Cruise onto one of those self-important assholes with no irony that Stiller hacks out in his sleep.

But who knows? Maybe Cruise is a real cool guy to Stiller.

bill

I haven't seen the "Color of Money" parody in a long time - though now I'll be checking it out on YouTube again ASAP - but even if you're right, Dan, that kind of hatred directed at Tom Cruise seems a little like overkill to me. Not only that, but in a reasonable person - which I'm going to go ahead an assume Stiller is - that kind of hatred can't be maintained.

That Smirnoff sketch is interesting, because of the commentary you reference. Even though it never occurred to me that an apology was called for in that case (partly because I think the sketch is kind of weak), I appreciate that he said that. We're talking about people who are acting on film or performing stand-up on a stage. Stiller isn't exactly trying to bring down corrupt heads of state or tyrants.

Bjorn Borgnine

This is precisely the reason why I can't understand why anyone thinks Jon Stewart is cutting edge or an iconoclast, because every time I flip past that channel he's sitting opposite some Republican stooge. Stewart sold his ass out, bigtime.

And concerning Ben Stiller, all he ever wanted was to be in the Royal Court, and he knew the only way he was going to get in was by playing the Jester role, which is exactly what he did, to the hilt. He knows he's nothing but a clown, and all the plastic surgery and crunches and hundred million dollar movie grosses is never going to change that. Cruise gets Kidman, Stiller gets a Maureen McCormick impersonator. If that doesn't let him know his station in life, then nothing else ever will.

Aaron Aradillas

It sounds like Martin's Bowfinger still remains the better satire of Hollywood. It used Eddie Murphy's arrogance and the cult of Scientology for some pretty ruthless satire.

Putting the Cruise thing aside for a moment, How come nobody seems to have an issue with Stiller's simplistic (and mean-spirited) takedown of Murphy? Does he really think by casting a White that will give him an "out" when called out for mocking Murphy? It seems to me it would've been funnier if Stiller acknowledged Murphy's comic brilliance in front of the camera, but was someone that no one wanted to be around during down time. Black could've shown some range by playing a real bore.

In defense of the Cruise casting I think audiences are smart enough to know that his "stunt" performance is just that. I seriously doubt people will come out of Tropic Thunder and say something like, "I guess it's Cruise's boss who is the real asshole, not Tom." Hollywood has a long history of its star humiliating themselves in order to get back into the good graces of their fans. It's condescending, but it is what it is.

Even something like Robert Altman's The Player (the best of this genre) is knowing in that it's giving the audience a glossy version of what it's really like to work in Hollywood. Altman himself said The Player was the comic-book version of the town. Aidiences know this. Actually audiences know that they're getting an authorized version of the inside workings of Hollywood.

I remember critics dumping on The Kid Stays in the Picture because it dared to offer a sanitized version of the life of Robert Evans. Really? I thought his ego and the sleaze were front and center. Yes, it celebrated Evans, but it also showed what a jerk he was/is.

bill

Well, at least you don't sound bitter.

bill

Sorry, my comment was directed at Bjorn, not Aaron.

Bjorn Borgnine

Go jump in the toilet, Bill. What's the matter, The Daily Show your nightly ritual? Or you have a crush on Christine Taylor? Either way, quit sucking your thumb.

bill

No, I don't like "The Daily Show". Perhaps you misunderstood me. My point was that you sound very bitter.

Bjorn Borgnine

Perhaps you misunderstood me, Bill. My point is that you're a sniveler. And you seem to be unduly fascinated with the bitterness of other people. I'm bitter, yes, so what. But that still doesn't change the fact that you're a sadsack. You need some kind of teary-eyed emoticon next to your name every time you post. It suits you.

Glenn Kenny

Oy. Come now. I hate to moderate, but I love civility.

Jiminy Christmas, when I bother to put up a post that actually contains some overt political content, y'all are too bored to even yawn at it, but somehow folks get frisky in a random thread, and suddenly the dark clouds of war start gathering. Which isn't to say that Bjorn and Bill aren't free to get feisty on this thread. But an invitation to jump in a toilet—just to start on the ad hominems—is not, Bjorn, how we do it around here. So engage meaningfully, or not at all. It's the only thing I ask, and I don't think it's too much. Thanks.

Aaron Aradillas

To quote Mr. Blonde:

You girls shouldn't play so rough. Someone might get hurt.

Glenn Kenny

Aaron—that's a funny reference, my friend. But it's not helping. Everyone take a deep breath and step back.

Bjorn Borgnine

Sorry, Glenn, but I consider Bill's de facto go to line: "you sound bitter," just as much an ad hominem as my invitation for him to go jump in the toilet. He says it at least once a week to someone. I did not direct my first comment towards him, but it obviously upset him, so he lobbed a worm at me, and I bit. My fault. But I will not apologize for calling him a sadsack, because he is. Bill's a real buzzkill, always lamenting about the state of the world, man's inhumanity to man - the usual rigamarole.

And quoting Reservoir Dogs is not funny. Unless it's early 1992, maybe late 1993. Maybe

bill

Well, this is what I get before checking in one last time before going to bed. Consider me stepped back.

But hey, Glenn, I dive into the political discussions around here from time to time. I just tend to not make a habit out of it, because things tend to get ugly (not here, specifically, but on the internet). I mean, Christ, look what happened when all we were talking about Ben frickin' Stiller.

bill

Didn't see Bjorn's last comment before posting. Won't comment, other than to say that I found it amusing.

Glenn Kenny

I can be a bit of a sad sack myself, Bjorn. But as someone who recently (and quite justifiably) was obliged to make a shitload of apologies for advising a blogger (who—I think—everyone on this thread would agree is a total simp) to throw herself in front of a bus, I've acquired a new sensitivity with respect to requests for self-drowning and so on.

Also—"Reservoir Dogs," whatever you might think of it personally, reveals its putative glories to each new generation. In 1992 the commenter you look down your nose at was, by my calculations, not even ten. Let's make some allowances for the new cinephiles on the block. Not their fault for when they were born.

Dan Coyle

Fun fact: I once owned the Resevoir Dogs video game and played it all the way through. Funner fact: the developers didn't have the participation of Tarantino (they just licensed it from LionsGate) or any of the actors, save Madsen. So you can imagine what that was like.

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