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"Tropic Thunder" Tops the Bat, but Can It Beat "Pineapple Express" as Best Comedy of the Summer?

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It had to happen, and now it has. The Dark Knight has lost the No. 1 spot after five weeks at the top. The victor is Tropic Thunder, Ben Stiller's comic bite on the Hollywood hand that feeds him. But don't get too excited. The Dark Knight took the No. 2 spot with $16.8 million, bringing its total so far to $471.5 million, passing the $461 million earned by the original Stars Wars to become — ta-da — the second biggest box-office hit in like EVER! Only Titanic with its $600 million total remains an obstacle — an insurmoutable one, I'd bet. But Stiller — the director, producer, co-writer and star — deserves his place in the summer box-office sun. There had been talks of picketing stemming from the use of the word "retard" in a scene in which Robert Downey, Jr., in blackface as an Aussie actor getting into character as a African-American soldier, tells Stiller about the dangers of going "full retard" if you want to win an Oscar. Nearly two dozen advocacy groups for the intellectually disabled protested. But the publicity made no dent at the box office, maybe because the target of the joke is not the mentally challenged but the egotism of Hollywood actors. Tropic wasn't able to match the $41.2 million five-day opening for Pineapple Express the previous week, and its $100 million production cost gives it a tougher time making a profit than Pineapple, which cost under $30 million. But consider another factoid: Tropic Thunder built its audience over the five days, while Pineapple Express dwindled, leaving us with the question that really counts:

Which movie is funnier: Tropic Thunder or Pineapple Express?Which deserves the title as Best Comedy of the Summer? To be fair, you can include any other summer comedy. Go ahead, pick Step Brothers or Get Smart or Vicky Cristina Barcelona or Hamlet 2 or — god forbid — What Happens in Vegas, You Don't Mess with the Zohan or even The Love Guru. But I want your reasons. The floor is yours.

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Peter Travers

Rolling Stone senior writer Peter Travers has reviewed movies for the magazine for more than 20 years. Send your comments and questions to him here.

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