Tropic Thunder & Idiocracy

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Tropic Thunder: Year: 2008, Writer: Ben Stiller & Justin Theroux (story & screenplay), Etan Cohen (screenplay), Director: Ben Stiller, Budget: $92 million, Gross: $46 896 155 (as of August 20th, 2008)

Idiocracy Idiocracy: Year: 2006, Writer: Mike Judge (story & screenplay), Etan Cohen (screenplay), Director: Mike Judge, Budget: ?, Gross: $444 093

this weeks one-and-one connection is writer etan cohen (not to be confused with coen brother ethan coen). 

etan has been a tv writer since the mid-90s and got his first film credit with his co-writing of mike judge's Idiocracy (he had written a few episodes of Beavis And Butt-Head and King Of The Hill.  both mike judge shows).  his second feature writing gig came with the just released Tropic Thunder.

besides etan, these two films have something else in common.  they both could have sucked!  but, they didn't.  both films dabble in satire, childish humor, and general comedy and, like i said, they both could have sucked.

its kind of funny, because one of the previews i saw before the screening of Tropic Thunder was for Disaster Movie (which looks like nothing more then take-offs of other movies with stuff falling on people and people getting hit with stuff) and in the wrong hands that is what Tropic thunder could have been.

they are walking a thin line with their satire of hollywood and of course their comedic odes to war films like Platoon and Apocalypse Now.  but, unlike Disaster Movie (i haven't seen it, but it looks awful) Tropic Thunder is able to find its humor in more then just movie take-off site gags.  there is really funny movie here and they found it.

the film begins with a faux commercial and fake movie trailers that play before the "movie" starts and it gets you right in the mood for the satire they are going to be bringing and bringing hard.  there are numerous huge laughs in this film and even if you don't get/recognize all the references to other films you wont feel left out in the least. 

also, tom cruise is so damn funny here.  like his supporting role in magnolia, he steals the show in Tropic Thunder and is part of one of the funniest closing credit sequences i have ever seen.  everyone else is gret also and they all work well together.  ben stiller probably won't get a lot of credit for his direction, but he definitely deserves it.  with so much going on and the varied comedic ideas and big acting personalities this could have been a train wreck of wasted potential, but he managed to bring it all together and not let it overrun the story and keep all parts fun, interesting and really funny.

as for Idiocracy, this also walked a thin like between good and suck, and while i didn't find it as funny as Tropic Thunder, i did enjoy it. 

in the film, luke wilson plays an average guy (he is average in every way) who through a mess up during an army experiment ends up waking up 500 years in the future when society has fallen apart due to the overrunning of dumb over many generations.  wilson is now the smartest man in the world.

it is a pretty funny premise and the film feels original in how it attacks it. normally films that take us into the future are dramas or action films and they present the future with a bright ultra modern vibe or, more often, a bleak darkness.  however, what gives Idiocracy its original twist is that its bleakness and devastation comes from the dumbing down of society over generations rather then the typical, man destroying itself with violence or technology getting so advanced it takes over.

idiocracy isn't as consistently laugh out loud funny as Tropic Thunder, but there are some very funny moments and i found myself thinking back and laughing at stuff after that i hadn't maybe appreciated fully in the moment of watching it (although the movie of an ass winning eight academy awards including one for best screenplay was damn funny during and after).

now, since etan was one of two or three writer on both films (including both films directors) he probably can't get full credit for these two films, but given some of the similarites i'm going to give him some and tell you all to see both these films.