Home > Reviews > TROPIC THUNDER – Theodore Shapiro

TROPIC THUNDER – Theodore Shapiro

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

A puerile, abysmally unfunny ‘comedy’ starring Ben Stiller, Robert Downey Jr., Jack Black, Nick Nolte, Matthew McConaughey and Tom Cruise, Tropic Thunder tells the story of a group of pampered, self-absorbed actors making “the ultimate Vietnam movie”, who inadvertently become caught in the middle of a real-life drug war which they mistakenly believe to be part of their hyper-realistic set. Despite deriving the majority of its humor from incessant bad language and gratuitous gore, the film became one of the biggest-grossing comedies of 2008.

One of the few things to work superbly in context, and on CD, is Theodore Shapiro’s score, which follows the tried and tested format of treating the movie absolutely seriously, and as a result is probably the most successful thing about the entire project. Shapiro is clearly lampooning the style of music employed by the likes of Trevor Rabin in a million Jerry Bruckheimer films, and the irony is that Shapiro’s music is actually significantly better than that which it is lampooning.

The opening cue, “You’re My Brother”, is an over-the-top outpouring of emotion, sending up every slow-mo sacrificial action sequence in modern history, but with more style and panache than most, especially when the strings and vocals rise to their crescendos. The action music is loud, vibrant and exciting, with cues such as “Four Leaf’s Plan”, “Flamethrower” and “Truck Escape”, raising the tempo considerably, despite often sounding like offshoots from the Hans Zimmer school of action scoring.

There is a prominent ‘ethnic’ undercurrent to many of the cues, often by way of South East Asian percussion instruments, pan pipes and wailing vocals, which add an exotic flavor and an epic scope to cues such as “Enter the Dragons”, “The Golden Triangle”. Every now and again Shapiro injects a throbbing rock element into the music too, giving the end of “Lead Farmer” and later cues like “Don’t Judge Me” a huge dose of testosterone-drenched machismo.

Two of the final three cues – “Simple Jack Trailer” and “Satan’s Alley” – are from the movies-within-the-movie, and stand at odds with the rest of the score, but are musically excellent (from a different angle), while the finale, “Cue Bill Conti”, is a wonderful piece of Hollywood gush that (intentionally) sounds like a schmaltzy Oscar tribute piece. It’s all a great deal of fun, and much recommended for those who want to hear the Zimmer sound done with a refreshing twist.

Rating: ***½

Track Listing:

  • You’re My Brother (2:58)
  • Four Leaf’s Plan (2:39)
  • Lead Farmer (3:56)
  • Enter the Dragons (0:58)
  • Bad Feeling About This (0:52)
  • Flaming Dragons (2:32)
  • Panda Attack (1:17)
  • Panda Call (0:47)
  • The Golden Triangle (2:52)
  • A Night at the Theater (0:48)
  • Don’t Judge Me (3:27)
  • Portnoy’s Plan (0:36)
  • The Wet Offensive (1:51)
  • Shadow Me, Pinocchio (0:49)
  • Flamethrower (1:46)
  • Breakdown Under (2:01)
  • Truck Escape (1:00)
  • Blow the Bridge (2:21)
  • Real Tears (3:19)
  • Simple Jack Trailer (1:14)
  • Satan’s Alley (0:53)
  • Cue Bill Conti (1:06)

Running Time: 40 minutes 11 seconds

Lakeshore Records LKS-34024 (2008)

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