We’ve marveled at the stills of Robert Downey Jr. pulling a John Howard Griffin in Ben Stiller’s action-comedy Tropic Thunder; now, with the release of the theatrical teaser, it’s time to see if the performance is as good as the makeup.  Dear god, it’s actually better.

I can’t get a fix on what kind of accent Downey is going for (if any); it’s got a little Creole flavor to it (with a tinge of Keith David), which makes the whole garish caricature even more ridiculous.  As a parody of stunt performances, it’s savage without being completely offensive.  What I particularly love about the concept of his character is that it satirizes white guilt, celebrity vanity and the dependably one-note portrayal of black men in modern war films (thankfully, The Walking Dead redressed these grievances).  I just hope they they nickname him “Motown”.

Downey’s far enough out on that limb that I don’t mind the his co-stars, namely Stiller and Jack Black, playing it safe as, respectively, a narcissistic movie star and an arrogant slob.  It’s beginning to look like they’ve designed the film as a Downey showcase, which should absolutely work in their favor (he’s got that Iron Man thing opening in May).  If they don’t run the character into the ground, this could be Downey’s Captain Jack Sparrow (i.e. a performance that gets him back in the favor of the Academy).  He is well overdue for some trophy love.

DreamWorks goes wide with Tropic Thunder on August 15th.