The Thing I Like About …

Jack Black in Tropic Thunder:

He makes probably the most compelling case against drug use I’ve ever seen.

In Tropic Thunder, Jack Black plays Jeff Portnoy, a man who wants to move into serious acting and out of drug addiction.  He knows he needs to stay clean, especially as the events in the film become more dire and a need for heroism becomes a possibility; he asks his friends to tie him to a tree and not to let him have any drugs or let him go from the tree until he has overcome his addiction – no matter what he says, or how sincere he seems.

His friends take him at his word, and refuse to untie him, even though he speaks to them perfectly normally – jovially, in fact, as though he were having an ordinary conversation with his mother – even though he seems completely fine.  As his anxiety increases, his demeanor remains steady and pleasant, his voice cheerful – but he begins to bargain with his friends, offering a variety of depraved sexual acts in exchange for drugs.

If children could see this scene, they would understand how far drugs can take you from what you thought you would be, how normal everything can seem on the surface while underneath your body is in such chaos that you turn on your own self.  If children could see this scene, they would vow never to be like Jeff Portnoy.

Unfortunately, no child should be allowed to hear the things Jeff Portnoy offers to do.  From a parenting standpoint, it’s extremely frustrating to have such a perfect example of what we try to teach kids, and to be categorically unable to use that example.  But from an acting standpoint, Jack black’s portrayal of Jeff Portnoy illustrates the reality of drug addiction in a way that a more stereotypical scene – of sore-covered junkies or desperate thugs with guns – would probably not have done.

Kids, you can’t watch that part of the movie, but trust me – if Jeff Portnoy’s smiling offers of depravity are any indication, drugs are … bad.  Friends who leave you tied to a tree are … good.  And the scene of Portnoy’s detox should be shown to every high-school student in the country.

The rest of the film is good too….


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