The Austin Chronicle

Kangaroo Jack

Rated PG, 89 min. Directed by David McNally. Starring Jerry O'Connell, Anthony Anderson, Estella Warren, Christopher Walken, Michael Shannon, Marton Csokas, David Ngoombujarra.

REVIEWED By Kimberley Jones, Fri., Jan. 17, 2003

While on a panel at the 2002 Austin Film Festival, Kangaroo Jack co-writer Scott Rosenberg recounted with glee how he pitched the idea of Jack -- two guys with $50,000 in the pocket of a jacket put the jacket on a kangaroo; kangaroo hops off with jacket and cash -- he received the biggest advance for an idea ever. Not for a script, mind you -- just an idea. At the time, we all had a good laugh (“Can you believe those studio execs? Suckas!”) But in between chortles it never really occurred to me that actions have consequences. The lamentable consequence of Rosenberg's action is this steaming pile of grade A, Bruckheimer-approved 'roo poo. That's producer Jerry Bruckheimer, the man at the top of my list of major contributors to the past decade's cultural dumbing down of America. You may not know the name, but you know the product: loud, bombastic, bullet-ridden, dumb, dumb, and more dumb (Pearl Harbor, Con Air, The Rock, to name but a few). This new one, ostensibly marketed at kids, has Bruckheimer's trigger-happy prints all over it, starting with the opening chase scene in which lifelong best friends Charlie (O'Connell) and Louis (Anderson) crash around Manhattan with cops on their tail and a trail of stolen TVs skittering in their wake like pebbles on a brook. It's the kind of screechy, bang-it-up interlude of excess and mayhem so familiar to Bruckheimer's oeuvre, but c'mon now: This is supposed to be for the kids. The action quickly moves to Australia, where the boys have been shipped by Charlie's mafioso stepdad (Walken) as couriers of $50,000. The simple enough job is mucked up mightily when their rental jeep slams into a kangaroo: In a moment of exceedingly bad taste, Louis slips his lucky red jacket on the roadkill and snaps a few candids, only to be interrupted by a miraculously resurrected kangaroo, who thusly delivers a few swift kicks to the noggin and hops off with the jacket, pocketing the $50,000 and some lint-laden Twizzlers and other assorted sweet treats. I don't think I'm giving anything away by stating the highlight of the film, hands down, involves Kangaroo Jack sucking down an Atomic Fireball -- such expression! Such flair for physical comedy! Indeed, the largely computer-generated Jack acts the pants off his co-stars, which can and should be taken with a whole trough full of salt. Beyond that marsupial charmer, there's nothing to recommend the film: certainly not the weak script, which gets its strongest firepower from camel flatulation, nor the all-flash, no-substance camerawork that resembles nothing so much as a zooming commercial for the Australian Tourism Board. At one point, the camera actually pans down to check out supermodel Estella Warren's shapely derrière. Not to further the plot, not to mimic another character checking it out, just to ogle the actress. I repeat: This is supposed to be for the kids.

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