Critics Consensus

Critics Consensus: Tropic Thunder Is Certified Fresh

Plus, Vicky Christina Barcelona scores but The Clone Wars misses. And guess Mirrors' Tomatometer!

by | August 14, 2008 | Comments

This week at the movies, we’ve got a war movie satire (Tropic Thunder, starring Ben Stiller, Jack Black, and Robert Downey Jr.), romantic foibles in Spain (Woody Allen‘s Vicky Cristina Barcelona, starring Scarlett Johansson and Penelope Cruz), animated Force-utilizers (George LucasThe Clone Wars), and killer reflections (Mirrors, starring Kiefer Sutherland). What do the critics have to say?

How better to lambaste the over-blown, summer blockbuster than with an over-blown, summer blockbuster? That’s the battle plan with Ben Stiller’s Tropic Thunder. While shooting a war drama in Vietnam, the pampered “all-star” cast (Stiller, Jack Black, Jay Baruchel, Brandon T. Jackson and Robert Downey Jr.) are taken off set and dropped into a camera-rigged jungle where they’re expected to pull off a guerrilla-style re-shoot and resurrect their Oscar-bait production turned over-budget disaster. While no one’s invoking the Academy (yet), critics are calling Stiller’s helming just the thing to promote his directorial resume (Reality Bites, The Cable Guy) from private to corporal. With references to major war films (Apocalypse Now, Platoon) as well as their making-of docs (Hearts of Darkness) and a few odd references thrown in (There’s There’s Something about Mary, Close Encounters of the Third Kind), critics are saying this foul-mouthed, politically incorrect farce proves war can be Hell-arious. It currently stands at 83 percent on the Tomatometer.

Macho Libre!

Rumors of Woody Allen’s creative demise may be dispelled by his new tragicomic travelogue Vicky Cristina Barcelona. Critics aren’t just referring to the film’s Spanish exteriors when they call it “warm,” “sun-drenched,” and “seductive.” Vicky Cristina follows two American girls (Scarlett Johansson and Rebecca Hall) who Venture to Spain for a summer only to become entangled with a passionate artist (Javier Bardem) and his borderline insane ex-wife (Penelope Cruz). Critics are saying the dazzling performances have elevated this bedroom comedy-cum-treatise on art, and put it in the lexicon of some of Allen’s saucier sagas of doomed romance. At 88 percent on the Tomatometer, Vicky Cristina tops even 2005’s Match Point, and is getting the kind of love Allen’s work hasn’t seen since Bullets over Broadway (96 percent).

“Anyone up for a Bergman retrospective?”

The Clone Wars hits screens this week with what sounds like a leaden thud. The critics are using words that haven’t been uttered about the franchise since the ill-fated Holiday Special, implying there’s little pop-culture future for this Clone. A precursor to the CG series airing on Cartoon Network this fall, Clone Wars doesn’t go too far into the titular war, instead focusing on an ancillary mission to recover Jabba the Hutt’s kidnapped infant. Critics are citing the mechanical animation and lackluster plot as culprit for pushing the franchise towards decline. At 24 percent, this one might have been better suited for the small screen. (Check out this week’s Total Recall, in which we run down the Tomatometers for every entry in the Star Wars franchise.)

“Bad reviews getting is this.”

We get the impression Mirrors is all about images that can kill, though that’s sort of conjecture. The studio isn’t screening it for press, which makes it sound like the only thing these images can kill are box office numbers. Keifer Sutherland plays an ex-cop whose house is haunted by ghosts with a fondness for reflective surfaces. The film, directed by Alexandre Aja, the Frenchman who brought us High Tension and the Hills Have Eyes remake, begs us to ask, “Mirror, mirror on the wall, what will be the Tomatometer after all?” Venture a guess, kids!

Also opening this week in limited release:

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