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Tropic Thunder

Here’s something I haven’t done before: attempt to review a movie before seeing it. Here goes.

When it comes to Hollywood movies, we’ve become so inundated with relentless marketing that many of us have become numb to the whole thing. From Taco Bell commercials to Web banner campaigns to every piece of merchandising imaginable, an aggressively marketed movie is so common that it all eventually becomes noise. A marketed film doesn’t make it a good film, and for me and others, it can actually have the opposite effect of what’s intended: the more marketed a film is, the less inclined we are to care about seeing it.

But we need to be careful not to rob ourselves of a good thing by our own jadedness. If we were to discard all heavily marketed films and regard them as garbage, we can easily throw the baby out with the bath water and miss out on some genuinely fantastic projects that fall through the cracks of our attention span. Sometimes it takes a bit of work — word of mouth — by believers in the project to separate it from the noise and have it noticed by like-minded people who would enjoy it.

Enter: Tropic Thunder.

The marketing for this one has gone through the roof. A couple weeks ago I was at a party, and the studio had a Tropic Thunder booth. They were handing out stickers, pins, cups, and all sorts of merch. Yet still, as usual, I didn’t pay a whole lot of attention. Looked like just another watchable Ben Stiller summer comedy.

Yesterday I got a couple texts from some bros who are coordinating a rally for us this week. Looks like Tropic Thunder’s gonna be the flick we’re gonna see, so I jumped on over to the official site to have a closer look at what we’re in for.

After spending some time checking out the Characters section of the site, then following the link to the Facebook page, and finally following the links to the individual Web sites of each character, I’ve realized that Tropic Thunder may very well be the funniest thing I will ever see.

And it’s high concept. Here’s the premise, from what I gather:

A Vietnam veteran, played by Nick Nolte, wrote an autobiographical book about his Nam experience. His story was purchased by a Hollywood studio, and is now being adapted to a star-studded big-budget action film called Tropic Thunder. The story, with Nolte’s character “Four Leaf” at the helm, follows a platoon of American soldiers through the muddy battlefields of Vietnam in 1969. While the film crew is in the middle of production, things go awry, and they find themselves in real-life combat.

The adapted novel boasts a cast of characters from all over the archetype map, from the bona fide action star to the Australian award-winner to the comedian to the hip-hop artist crossing over into acting. Each actor hired on for the production has his own Web site, which includes a biography, filmography, and links to other projects they’re associated with.

This Tropic Thunder thing is a blast of parody and satire, with a unique layer of humor that is so smart it’s bringing me to tears. Before seeing the film, I’ve been spending a bit of time indulging in the online set-up. And it is KILLING ME. The whole shebang is a clinic in character development, giving us an extraordinary familiarity with characters before even watching the movie. Such a rare thing. Back in 1999, a similar technique was used in The Blair Witch Project, but outside of remakes and adaptations, I can’t think of many films that have been set up so thoroughly with online supplements.

I can’t wait to see the film. I’m going in with high expectations, so logic tells me I could only be disappointed. But from what I’ve gotten out of the online set-up, I’ve already gotten my money’s worth.

Below are some notable sites to visit before you see the film. Pay attention to the small details. Killer writing:

The Tropic Thunder official site is a good start: http://tropicthunder.com

Then familiarize yourself with:

Tugg Speedman (don’t miss his favorite charity)
Official site: http://tuggspeedman.com
The Scorcher VI movie site in which he stars: http://www.scorchermovie.com

Kirk Lazarus
Official site: http://www.kirklazarus.com
The Satan’s Alley movie site in which he played an award-winning role: http://www.satansalley.com

Jeff Portnoy
Official site: http://www.jeffportnoy.com
The Fatties sequel movie site in which he stars: http://www.fatties2.com

Cody Keith Underwood (Special Effects expert; don’t miss his previous work)
Official site: http://www.codyeffects.com

Alpa Chino
Official site: http://www.alpa-chino.com

Kevin Sandusky
Check out his MySpace page: http://www.myspace.com/kevinsandusky

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