With an early, inappropriately crude and extremely long-running joke about infected genitals, the down-under comedy "Kangaroo Jack" blows its chance for a shoulder-shrugging, it's-good-enough-for-kids recommendation. But since the rest of the movie is too flimsy for adults to enjoy on their own, there doesn't seem much point in explaining that it does have its moments.
The plot finds a Brooklyn mobster's stepson (Jerry O'connell) and his bad-luck buddy (Anthony Anderson) flying to Australia to make a $50,000 delivery in a "mission of absolution" after accidentally blowing the cover on a big mafia operation.
While traveling through the Outback, they dress up a road-kill kangaroo in sunglasses and Anderson's "lucky jacket" for a few laughs and a few silly snapshots to send back home. But the not-really-dead 'roo springs to life, scaring the bejezus out of the guys, then hopping off into the wilderness, still wearing the jacket -- which holds the 50 large in its pockets.
Their misadventures while getting the money back -- before the mob comes looking for them -- comprise the rest of the movie, and the results are hit or miss. Director David McNally ("Coyote Ugly") falls back far too often on the repetition of animal flatulence gags and shots of his heroes off-roading their Jeep down steep embankments while yelling "aaaaaarrrrrrhhh!"
But from time to time there's a surprisingly creative moment of comedy. One of those screaming scenes takes place in an about-to-crash bush plane the guys have chartered to search for the elusive marsupial -- and just for a moment McNally cuts away to the 'roo's point of view as the plane goes streaking across the sky to the distant sound of "aaaaaarrrrrrhhh!"
The CGI kangaroo effects are unusually well-done for a cheap, ostensibly kiddie flick, even during one of O'Connell's many knockout-induced hallucinations in which the 'roo starts talking and then breaks into a rendition of the SugarHill Gang's "Rapper's Delight."
Most of the film, however, literally goes a long way for its laughs, dragging out every Australian cliché short of throwing a shrimp on the barbie. And McNally hardly bothers with anything but the most elementary plot advancement. "There's nothing else we can do today. We'll pitch camp here," says their hottie conservationist Outback guide ("Planet of the Apes" babe Estella Warren), even though it's clearly the middle of the day.
Warren looks positively bored with O'Connell's inevitable but flavorless attempts at flirtation. In fact, she barely makes eye contact with the guy, whose acting resume continues to include some of the worst movies every year. See -- or better yet, don't see -- the role-reversal sex farce "Tomcats" (2001), the sci-fi stinker "Mission to Mars" (2000), the self-important, superficial, MTV-styled rape drama "Body Shots" (1999) and the imitation-'80s high-school party movie "Can't Hardly Wait" (1998).
The scene-stealing Anderson, on the other hand, has real talent and comedic timing (see "Barbershop," "Kingdom Come" and "Me, Myself and Irene," among others) but he has terrible taste in scripts. Here he's reduced to doing the Black Thang for a white people's movie. His character can be summed up by the line "Mmm hmm, yeah. We bad."
Christopher Walken also helps keep "Kangaroo Jack" from becoming completely trite. He plays O'Connell's mobster stepfather (naturally!) whose schtick is his Thesaurus-like fondness for multi-syllabic Malapropisms.
But even though there are laughs to be had in this movie, it was a clearly minimal-effort outing from the moment writers Steve Bing, Barry O'Brien and Scott Rosenberg conceived the preposterous plot and composed clumsy lines like "Let's face it Lewis, I'm never gonna find the right girl."
Run time: 89 mins
In Theaters: Friday 17th January 2003
Distributed by: Showtime Networks Inc.
Production compaines: Jerry Bruckheimer Films, Warner Bros. Pictures, Castle Rock Entertainment
Contactmusic.com: 2 / 5
IMDB: 4.3 / 10
Director: David McNally
Starring: Jerry O'Connell as Charlie Carbone, Anthony Anderson as Louis Booker, Estella Warren as Jessie, Christopher Walken as Salvatore 'Sal' Maggio, Michael Shannon as Frankie Lombardo, Marton Csokas as Mr. Smith, Dyan Cannon as Anna Carbone