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'Tropic Thunder' to Premiere Amid Protests

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Ben Stiller's latest comedy is not being taken lightly by several groups that advocate for the disabled. Many of the nearly two dozen advocacy groups protesting Tropic Thunder are planning to protest tonight's premiere at the Mann Village Theatre in Westwood, according to reports.

Tropic Thunder, written and directed by Stiller and starring Jack Black, Tom Cruise, and Robert Downey, Jr., features the 5'7"[-in-heels] Stiller in a send-up of big-budget Hollywood war movies. The men play actors on location in Southeast Asia, and as you might hope for in a Stiller satire, everything goes wrong.

But it's the movie-within-the-movie, "Simple Jack," and Stiller's turn as "Tugg Speedman" that has advocacy groups vowing to take action. Tugg Speedman is an intellectually disabled simpleton who is referred to as a "retard" in the plot of "Thunder." "Never go full retard," urges Robert Downey, Jr's character (whom he plays in blackface), at one point.

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DreamWorks pulled its promotional website and posters for "Simple Jack" last week (with the tagline "Once upon a time … there was a retard"), after meeting with several of these groups. But it appears that neither Stiller nor DreamWorks opted to alter the the movie in spite of requests and threats of boycotts by advocacy groups for the disabled. Timothy B. Shriver, chairman of the Special Olympics, asked members of Congress to condemn the movie’s “'hate speech,'” according to the New York Times and Gail Williamson of the Down Syndrome Association of Los Angeles sent out a detailed memo.

Whether or not these advocacy groups effectively picket tonight or at any other time (the movie opens to the public on Wednesday), the voice of protest is ringing loud and clear, which can't possibly hurt Tropic Thunder's opening shot at taking down The Dark Knight (after four weeks at #1). Whether it's the funniest movie of the summer, or the dumbest movie of all time, we're gonna have to see it. Seemingly unintentional PR snafus are often the best press a movie can hope for its release week.

Tropic Thunder trailer.

All images courtesy of DreamWorks