While funnyman Ben Stiller continues to bring his fresh approach to a string of successful comedies with the just-opened "Tropic Thunder," he is treated like old-time comic Rodney Dangerfield at showbiz awards: He gets no respect.
Despite appearances in such box-office smashes as "Night at the Museum" and both "Meet the Parents" and sequel "Meet the Fockers," Ben Stiller's mantle is surprisingly bare. He did win an Emmy Award for being part of the writing team of his short-lived self-titled TV variety show back in 1992. However, all this son of TV stars Jerry Stiller and Anne Meara has to show for his 15 years of films are three MTV Movie Awards and one win at the Teen Choice Awards. He has racked up 14 nods apiece with these two popular vote contests.
And it is unlikely that, despite some glowing notices, "Tropic Thunder" will change this lack of love for Stiller. Meta Critic scores the Hollywood satire at a respectable 73 while the top tier of critics surveyed by Rotten Tomatoes comes in at 84. Lisa Schwarzbaum of Entertainment Weekly said, "It's raunchy, outspoken — and also a smart and agile dissection of art, fame, and the chutzpah of big-budget productions" while David Ansen of Newsweek calls it "the funniest movie of the summer."
While Ben Stiller wrote, directed and stars in the movie, his co-stars get the lion's share of good reviews. As Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times writes, "All but stealing the show, Robert Downey Jr. is not merely funny but also very good and sometimes even subtle as Kirk Lazarus, an Australian actor who has won five Oscars and has surgically dyed his skin to transform himself into a black man." Jack Black also gets kudos for skewering his typical manic movie style while Tom Cruise scores in a showy supporting role as a studio chief.
For Stiller, attention has focused instead on his controversial depiction of the developmentally challenged in a subplot of the movie. He told ABC, "In the context of the film I think it's really clear, they were making fun of the actors who try to use serious subjects to win awards."
Ironically, his satirizing such craven moves on the part of his Hollywood brethren is unlikely to win him any awards. His best shot at an acting nod would be at the Golden Globes, which have ignored him in the past. Instead, his co-stars in "Something About Mary" (Cameron Diaz) and "Meet the Parents" (Robert De Niro) have gotten the nods.
While the Golden Globes have shunned Stiller, they have embraced the antics of other, similar comic hipsters. Jim Carrey got nods for his over-the-top turns in "The Mask" and "Liar Liar" before winning for his dramatic take in "The Truman Show" and his seriocomic performance in "Man on the Moon. " Carrey even picked up a nom for playing the title role in "How the Grinch Stole Christmas. " "Saturday Night Live" alum Adam Sandler ("Punch Drunk Love") and Will Ferrell ("Stranger Than Fiction") had to show their softer side before getting Globe nods as did Jack Black ("School of Rock"). Stiller may well have to be content counting the money he will make from "Tropic Thunder," which may well bump "The Dark Knight" from the top of the box office charts this weekend.