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After two consecutive close calls, The Dark Knight's stunning box-office reign faces
another formidable challenger this week with Tropic Thunder. Not that Ben Stiller's film is necessarily favored to knock the blockbuster off — at least not with its R-rating, its meta-Vietnam theme, and definitely not with Tropic Thunder RetardGate threatening to capsize the film on its maiden voyage.

We thought this whole thing was settled last week after DreamWorks yanked its mock Web site for Simple Jack — the movie-within-the-movie featuring the tagline, "Once upon a time there was a retard" — and disability advocates' only slightly unreasonable list of demands ("Paramount/DreamWorks should pull all scenes and clips that include Ben Stiller’s portrayal of Simple Jack from the movie, DVD, trailers, promotional material and merchandising") came and went with nary a splash. But in fact the danger worsens by the day, reports one source, which warns of an ambush by aggrieved disability-rights protestors at tonight's premiere in Westwood and a full-scale, national "No Retard" backlash to coincide with Thunder's national opening on Wednesday:

“Not only might it happen, it will happen,” Timothy P. Shriver, chairman of the Special Olympics, said of the expected push for a boycott. ... Mr. Shriver said that he had also begun to ask members of Congress for a resolution condemning what he called the movie’s “hate speech” and calling for stronger federal support of the intellectually disabled. ...

Over the weekend an ad-hoc coalition of more than a dozen disabilities groups — including the Arc of the United States, the National Down Syndrome Congress, the American Association of People With Disabilities and others — laid the groundwork for public protests to begin Monday. ... "I came out feeling like I had been assaulted,” said David C. Tolleson, executive director of the Down syndrome group who saw the movie.

Funny — that was exactly our reaction to Sean Penn's grossly condescending role in I Am Sam. If only we had mounted a boycott then, we could have nipped this whole crisis in the bud.