Kangaroo Jack (2003) Warner Brothers
1 hr. 27 mins.
Starring: Jerry O’Connell, Anthony Anderson, Estella Warren, Christopher Walken, Marton Csokas, Michael Shannon, Bill Hunter
Directed by: David McNally

Kangaroo Jack



Photo: Warner Brothers

What's more innocuous than a family-friendly farce meant to conjure up wacky aimless laughs for a less-than-demanding movie audience? However, when this very same family-friendly farce happens to be a nagging, nonsensical, insufferable and profoundly pointless pseudo-kiddie comedy then folks…we've got problems! In director David McNally's boorish and feverishly formulaic chucklefest Kangaroo Jack, we're hopelessly treated to a numbing dose of fruitless sight gags, belabored high jinks and a jittery computer-generated moronic marsupial that's too cutesy for his own good. Relentlessly gimmicky as it is needlessly tepid, McNally's doltish narrative doesn't deliver the inspired slapstick intended to be charming in this goofy and grating vehicle.

Interestingly enough, the hackneyed high wire act behind the misguided mayhem of Kangaroo Jack is none other than "the ringmaster of raucous" (or if you prefer, "the titan of testosterone")--action-oriented movie producer Jerry Bruckheimer (Con Air, The Rock, Armageddon). Alright, so this Down Under dud isn't the most objectionable and forgettable concept since the AMC Pacer but it's awfully close. This brainless ordeal is approximately 90 minutes of sketchy, flavorless shtick going nowhere fast.

Kangaroo Jack tries its best to appease all the factions of its audience by appealing to the masses on various levels. But the movie isn't savvy or shrewd enough to mesh all its diverse cobbled together components into juggling genres. In a clumsy effort, Kangaroo Jack only hints at being a viable showcase of hilarity. The outrageousness produces a junk food-eating, Sugar Hill Gang enthusiast rapping kangaroo (he sings the legendary ‘80s rap group's signature song "Rapper's Delight"--how hilarious, huh?) that's geared toward the funnybone of the kiddies and their weary parents. For the women, the exotic setting of Australia serves as a travelogue for their indifferent partners who never seem take them anywhere special. Plus, it's always a reliable move to sprinkle some mutual attraction between the attractive male and female lead stars. After all, the adolescent girls will buy this gesture without any reservations. And for the young and old guys, well they can either bask in the manly shenanigans of the cartoonish gangsters and gunplay or do some wishful thinking by discreetly ogling the film's resident babe Estella Warren (Driven) dutifully providing the eye candy in this tired and tedious fable. Gee, there's something for almost everyone! Now that's very convenient, right?

The premise follows the wayward trial and tribulations of Brooklyn-born buddies Charlie Carbone (Jerry O'Connell, Joe's Apartment, Tomcats, Mission to Mars) and Louis Booker (Anthony Anderson). After screwing up a mob-related financial transaction put into play by his New York mob boss stepfather Sal Maggio (Christopher Walken), lanky Charlie and his puffy sidekick Louis are sent packing to Australia as unlikely bagmen for the Mafia. Their mission: delivering some hot loot to a suspicious contact in The Land Down Under who goes by the name of "Mr. Smith". The tumultuous tandem (as expected in any arbitrary and anemic witless buddy-buddy caper) experience the usual setbacks in their ability to pull off the important job. And thus the "zany" antics are presented courtesy of this weak-kneed contemporary salt-n-pepper Laurel and Hardy pairing.

Without elaborating on all the dimwitted details that lead up to the madness, I'll spare you and give the cliff notes version. As Charlie and Louis drive the dusty Outback trails in a stolen jeep, they come across the carcass of a stillborn kangaroo. Feeling giddy enough to exploit the situation of the dazed animal for their personal amusement, the buffoon Louis decides to dress up the two-legged, hop-a-long hairball with his "good luck" jacket for kicks. Not only is this critter classified as a kangaroo, it also doubles as a possum--as in "playing possum". The stunned talking creature "recovers" then hastily takes off into the sunset while donning simple-minded Louis's jacket on its back. This is an unfortunate incident because the stash of money the guys are suppose to hand over is in the pockets of the disappearing jacket. Thus the two knuckleheads must track down the slick beast otherwise their bacon is cooked--yet again!

It isn't long before the haphazard heroes bump into the shapely Jessie (the aforementioned Estella Warren), a wildlife organization worker that teams up with them in order to lasso the shifty verbose animal. Oh yeah, we shouldn't exclude the drunk-as-a-skunk pilot named Blue (Bill Hunter) who also assists in the hunt for the crafty kangaroo. He apparently represents one of the many "comic relief" elements that's suppose to make us grin at the fact that Kangaroo Jack is probably more sympathetic and intelligent than the pesky humans constantly hounding him. And so the adventure continues with the harried threesome being thwarted by Kangaroo Jack while trying their best to elude the riff raffish forces led by Maggio's main henchman Frankie (Michael Shannon).

Kangaroo Jack is a convincingly lame road picture with a rocky, unsettling path. Although the movie wants to be uproariously naughty and unconventional, its dumb approach to the many nitwitted scenes leaves not a lot to be desired. McNally doesn't seem to have any novel idea as to how to instill his clueless and cockeyed comedy with any freshness or insightful frivolity. Instead, he finds the solution of heightening his frenzied flick with boisterous boneheads that are more obnoxious than they are an acquired taste. There's absolutely nothing riotous or challenging here. McNally stocks up on the banal and obvious references regarding beer-guzzling Aussies and baby-eating dingoes amidst this sophomoric romp session. With plum ditties involving flatulence humor, a budding but drab ounce of romance and outlandish chaos concerning errand transportation (out-of-control airplanes, predictably unfunny car chases, farting camels, etc.), Kangaroo Jack is about as amusing as picking your teeth with a boomerang.

As the hip hop and breakdancing titular protagonist, Kangaroo Jack isn't particularly a charismatic or memorable CGI concoction. At least the finicky huskies in last year's lackluster canine comedy Snow Dogs were as enjoyable as they were adorable in the things they did and said in a hallucinatory haze. Even the live action Scooby Doo had some pop and dimension to him. But there's no spark or sense of amazement in what KJ demonstrates in addition to his exhausting and annoying routine reminiscent of a blustery Borscht Belt comic with a pouch. As a comedic couple, both O'Connell and Anderson have the smooth timing of a broken watch. All they do is mug and yell shamelessly before the camera and expect the audience to get a rise out of their kooky on screen occurrences in knee-slapping fashion. If anything they're irritating, not insanely witty. Walken, a dependable and delicious devil when he's given good material to work with, is trapped as a transparent stock character in the form of a humorless, run-of-the-mill underworld villain. As if Walken had enough to worry about regarding his association with the putrid Country Bears, he can proudly add the woeful Kangaroo Jack to his cinematic resume'. Warren, in the meantime, serves her purpose as the token bland beauty involved in this whole unpalatable mix.

It's too bad that Kangaroo Jack is a faceless and overwrought farcical spectacle that wants to cater to the kids but disguises its patchy skin in the overtones of a tiresome, inane adult comedy. Since it is the beginning of a brand new year, one would at least anticipate the floodgates to open with halfway decent comedies to meet our movie-going expectations. With the arrival of this special effects-driven mawkish marsupial and his hapless human co-stars, those dreams were dashed almost instantly.

Click here to comment on this review or post your own thoughts.

Frank Ochieng



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