‘Thunder’ booms with inside laughs

Cruise's 'Tropic' character making waves

With 125,000 attendees and endless media attention, the annual Comic-Con gathering in San Diego has morphed from a delicious secret of the nerd herd into a great place for studios to tout their wares.

And the July 23 screening of Ben Stiller‘s “Tropic Thunder” — a spoof of filmmaking with a delightful parody of actors and myriad references to obscure movies — was perfect grist for the crowd.

Tom Cruise is cast in a supporting role as a Hollywood studio chief, screaming a vocabulary that would embarrass a hardened rapper.

The Cruise-Stiller notion of a contemporary Hollywood boss is intriguing: Cruise’s character, a bald, pudgy man named Grossman, is not the slick corporate type who heads studios today but rather a screaming, smarmy Semite more reminiscent of Columbia’s fabled Harry Cohn. Cruise’s Grossman character is perfectly willing to “sell” the life of his star to terrorists in return for insurance money.

Harvey Weinstein would fire the Cruise character on the grounds of being politically incorrect.

But that is part of the subtext of “Tropic Thunder,” with Robert Downey Jr., Jack Black and the others in scenes that are even bawdier than a Judd Apatow effusion. And, yes, “Tropic Thunder” elicited thunderous laughs from the crowd.

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