Tropic Thunder, starring Ben Stiller as one of a group of runaway actors whose work on a big-budget Vietnam epic goes horribly awry, is a funny, far-fetched mockery of modern Hollywood; the laughs don't maintain anything like a coherent intensity, but when they come, they're big enough to get you through the spaces between them. Some will mistakenly call Tropic Thunder a satire, but Tropic Thunder is in fact an example of satire's boisterous, bumbling sibling, the spoof. A satire's held with a light but precise grip, so the point can slice and the blade can cut; a spoof's more of a club, landing with blunt force and broad impact.
Star and director Stiller attacked the celebrity-industrial complex before, in 2001's Zoolander, and Tropic Thunder has more in common with that film than you might think; Stiller manages to mock action and thrills while also delivering them, and he's got a fine grasp of coarse celebrity behavior. Stiller seems drawn to characters whose self-centered arrogance is mixed in equal measure with self-loathing insecurity. We see an interview clip where Stiller's character, box office star Tugg Speedman, is informed by an interviewer how "Someone close to you said 'One more flop and it's over for him.'" Speedman pauses, and then asks his follow-up: "Somebody said they were close to me?"