Kangaroo Jack

on January 17, 2003 by Mark Keizer
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Destined to become "The Godfather" of kangaroo chase movies, "Kangaroo Jack" is an inconsequential pre-teen widget that should briefly satisfy the Nickelodeon crowd. Although there is scant little to keep the adults awake, the kids will laugh at the flatulent camels and wacky antics of the energetic Anthony Anderson. However, parents be warned: There is a fair amount of subject matter (including murder-for-hire, drunken behavior and breast-leering) that is questionable for younger kids.

Jerry O'Connell (who manages to be bland and shrill simultaneously) portrays New York hairdresser Charlie Carbone, whose best friend Louis (Anthony Anderson) saved his life 20 years ago. Since then, Louis has entangled them in a never-ending series of get-rich-quick schemes, the latest involving a truckload of stolen TVs. When that plan goes south, the pair wind up in hot water with Sal, Charlie's mob boss stepfather (Christopher Walken, obviously late on his boat payments).

Sal gives the pair one shot at redemption: Deliver $50,000 in cash to the mysterious Mr. Smith, who lives in the Australian Outback. Soon after arriving Down Under, the pair speed through the wilderness in a Jeep, accidentally hitting a kangaroo. Assuming it's dead, they prop it up and start taking souvenir pictures. Louis even fits the kangaroo with his lucky red jacket. Of course, the kangaroo isn't dead and it escapes with the $50,000 tucked into the pocket of the Louis' lucky red jacket. The rest of the film chronicles the pair as they (along with wildlife specialist Estella Warren) try to retrieve the money from the uncooperative 'roo, while avoiding a group of painfully generic bad guys.

O'Connell and Anderson actually make a nice team; Estella Warren, however, proves once again that she is little more than a pretty face. Director David McNally ("Coyote Ugly") does a serviceable job, even if he does keep the jokes broader then necessary. The script, by Steve Bing and Scott Rosenberg, is plotted in the most obvious fashion and peppered with jokes that flatline too often. The Aussie Outback looks terrific, courtesy of cinematographer Peter Menzies Jr.

Oddly, the filmmakers don't do enough with the lead marsupial. This CGI creation spends most of his time running around at warp speed and when he does slow down, he's not as endearing or memorable as a title character should be (at least not enough to sell plush toys).

In the end, "Kangaroo Jack" is lacking in every way you'd imagine, but it's never unwatchable. It aspires to very little and it barely achieves it. Starring Jerry O'Connell, Anthony Anderson, Estella Warren and Christopher Walken. Directed by David McNally. Screenplay by Steve Bing & Scott Rosenberg. Produced by Jerry Bruckheimer. A Warner Bros. release. Comedy. Rated PG for language, crude humor, sensuality and violence. Running time: 88 min

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