Kangaroo Jack Movie Review

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An Australian tall tale dating back to 1903 (according to the Internet, and the Internet would never lie) relates the escapades of the "Gucci Kangaroo" a mischievous marsupial that robs foreigners of hats, sunglasses, or jackets. The story tells of hapless travelers, inexperienced in the wild ways of the outback, unwittingly running down a kangaroo while driving in the land Down Under. Believing that the carcass of a dead animal is the perfect addition to any travel photo, these tourists dress up the pouchy beast with an assortment of gear. But the animal has only been stunned and, bursting to life, it makes off with the items.

Somehow inspired by this bit of Australian folklore, Jerry Bruckheimer and a posse of conspirators (notably director David McNally, famous for the boobs and booze epic Coyote Ugly) decided to turn this story into a by-the-book chase movie. While Kangaroo Jack does deliver the fart jokes, bumps on the head, and anthropomorphized CGI animals necessary to keep kids interested, it never really delivers quality laughs or whimsy. It borrows watered-down versions of car chases, airplane chases, jeep chases, and gunplay from other Bruckheimer fare such as Con Air and Gone in 60 Seconds, that seem more played out than exciting.

Set in motion by a flimsily framing story about a debt to his mob-boss stepfather (Christopher Walken), an apathetic hairdresser Charlie Charbone (Jerry O'connell) and his buffoonish man-child friend Louis (Anthony Anderson) are sent to the Australian bush to deliver $50,000 to a "business associate." In transit, they run into the titular 'roo and dress him up in Louis' lucky jacket. Unfortunately, the mafia money is in the jacket pocket. When Kangaroo Jack wakes up and bounces away Charlie and Louis are left to pursue the beast and the money. The mob, not believing our fearless duo's wild story (clearly the mafia does not use the Internet), chases after Charlie and Louis. And so the hunt that passes for a plot is set into laborious motion.

Along the way, Charlie and Louis enlist hottie American conservationist Jessie (Estella Warren) to help them find Kangaroo Jack and recover the money. But as the search progresses, she turns into half of an inevitable "opposites attract" romance with Charlie that has all the appeal of a giant termite mound.

Kangaroo Jack suffers from a dreary type of adolescence, missing the spirit of adventure or joy of a good children's film and lacking the comic sophistication necessary to make it interesting for grown ups. While the film does include outback animal clichés such as fire ants, dingoes and snakes, screenwriters Scott Rosenberg and Steve Bing miss an opportunity to use the presence of Warren's character to punch up the kiddie quotient by introducing more creative animal shenanigans, a la The Crocodile Hunter.

The acting is predictably poor and the narrative leaves no room for surprises, but it's difficult to be too hard on Kangaroo Jack. The film has no particular aspirations beyond reaching the closing credits and makes no pretense of being anything more than the equivalent of a cinematic cough drop: nothing really to look forward to, but it will disappear quickly and leave only a slightly bad taste in your mouth.

Jack's DVD, believe it or not, features an awful lot of extras, emphasis on awful. Foremost is a tongue-in-cheek featurette about the film's farting sound effects (honestly). There's also a commentary from the CGI kangaroo (ha ha!), and a feature-length commentary from director McNally, the visual effects supervisor, and the three stars , all of whom have nothing to say.

Jack asses.

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Kangaroo Jack Rating

" Grim "

Rating: PG, 2003


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