review by Dan
Lybarger, 17 January 2003
My four-year-old nephew can
write his own name. This puts him several steps above the folks who
wrote the screenplay for Kangaroo
Some of the dialogue in this latest
entry from high-concept mastermind Jerry Bruckheimer (who
occasionally slips up and produces watchable movies like Black
Hawk Down and Remember the
Titans) really does sound like the kind of bizarre non-sequiturs
that kids frequently utter. During one allegedly emotionally charged
scene in Kangaroo Jack,
Anthony Anderson bellows, "If you’re in the ocean, call Free
Willy. Free Willy will set you free." English isn’t the only
language that gets mangled. Director David McNally handles cinematic
syntax with the same eloquence that George W. Bush demonstrates in
unprepared remarks. Even my nephew knows better than to mix mob
movie clichés, teen sex comedy groaners, and offensive Australian
stereotypes into an unappetizing concoction that’s allegedly for
kids. Flatulence gags will take you only so far
As Kangaroo Jack
progresses, it’s hard to tell where the film went wrong because
almost nothing goes right. Jerry O’Connell stars as Charlie, a New
York hairdresser who’s under the thumb of his mobster stepfather
(an understandably indifferent Christopher Walken). Casting
O’Connell in anything role is a major mistake from the beginning.
He was likable as a tubby little kid in Stand
by Me. But now that he’s a slimmed down, buff adult, he has no
discernable personality. Like Ricki Lake before him, he lost what
ever made him interesting when he shed the pounds. As for his taste
in roles (the critical and box office duds Tomcats
and Buying the Cow), the trend continues.
The older man has put up money for
Charlie’s shop and would probably rather whack the lad instead of
claim him. If Charlie’s family life is unfortunate, his taste in
friends is appalling and potentially fatal. Louis (Anthony Anderson,
at his loudest and most irritating) once saved Charlie’s life and
now drags the schlub along with him on several dubious "business"
opportunities. One in particular leads to a high-speed chase that
attracts the cops to Charlie’s stepfather. This might have been
fun if McNally knew how to stage action scenes like Bruckheimer
regular director Tony Scott does. Instead, all we get is quick
cutting and Anderson’ loud shrieking. In real life, Charlie and
Louis would be dead instantly because of their offense, putting us
out of their misery. Sadly, this is Hollywood, so the lads are sent
to rural Australia on an improbable mission to deliver a mysterious
package to a "Mr. Smith." Being that Charlie and Louis are the
dumbest creatures on two legs, they open the parcel to discover
$50,000 (I suppose wiseguys have never heard of Federal Express).
You can tell a movie is falling apart when the logic problems start
leaping out at you like a stampede of feisty kangaroos. Speaking of
the marsupials, the boys lose the money on the way to the drop point
when Charlie hits a kangaroo and Louis places his jacket, containing
the package, on the roo. The beast hops off, leaving the Louis and
Charlie in a rugged land where all the men drink like Nicolas Cage
in Leaving Las Vegas and
dress like Crocodile Dundee.
Jack was shot entirely Down Under (even the cheesy "New York"
scenes), McNally and screenwriters Steve Bing and Scott Rosenberg
make little effort to capitalize on the locale. We don’t learn
anything about the country that we haven’t seen on Crocodile
Hunter. At times, the only way we get to know the film is really
set in Australia is from the musical cues (yep, you get to hear that
Men at Work song one more time).
Many of the animal scenes look as if they’d been taken from
outtakes of Mutual of
Omaha’s Wild Kingdom. You’d think a producer with
Bruckheimer’s vast resources could find stock footage that
didn’t look so worn. When Charlie and Louis find themselves
surrounded by dingoes, we never almost see the guys or the wild dogs
in the same shot. It’s almost like watching the 60’s Tarzan
TV-series where real African footage was clumsily grafted into the
Maybe sensing that the narrative
and the setting were unclear, the filmmakers added an expatriate
American naturalist played by Estella Warren from Driven.
If O’Connell and Anderson have all the comic instincts of Leopold
and Loeb, Warren adds a factor that makes Kangaroo
Jack questionable fare for children. It’s easy to see why she
was cast. She has a face that resembles a statue of a Greek goddess.
It’s too bad that her visage is almost as expressive. Since acting
isn’t Warren’s strong suit, the filmmakers make her the butt of
a couple of demeaning sequences: one where O’Connell gropes her
bosom and another where she, wearing a flimsy halter-top, showers
under a waterfall.
As for the computer-generated
kangaroo who dominates the trailers for Kangaroo
Jack, he’s smarter and more entertaining than any of the
humans in front of or behind the camera. While he might not be
consistently convincing as a roo (his resemblance to Joe Camel is
uncanny), he at least appears biological (unlike the cast) and gets
a few intentional laughs. The rapping sequence in the previews is
sadly just a dream sequence. But at the end, he complains that he
wasn’t given enough screen time. He’s right.
R - Restricted.
Under 17 requires
parent or adult