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artisanal film reviews | by maryann johanson

Kangaroo Jack (review)

Proud to Be an American

(Worst of 2003)

Are there three more terrifying words in the English language than “Jerry Bruckheimer Presents”? (I know, you’re thinking, “What about ‘A Michael Bay Film'”? But that’s four words.) We people who care about film — and by this I mean “we people who don’t enjoy clawing our eyes out in an effort to retain our sanity while we watch a film” — joke a lot about each successive entry in Bruckheimer’s oeuvre being a sign of the apocalypse. But this time it could really be true.

Here’s the thing: We, by which I mean the U.S., aren’t the most popular kids on the block these days, what with the “we can bomb whoever we want” thing and the “if you’re not with us you’re against us” thing. Do we really want to go and alienate one of the few friends we have left, nice, friendly Australia? When the Slervoids from Tau Ceti invade and nobody tells us about the interstellar ark and we’re left to be enslaved, we’ll know who to blame.

Jerry Bruckheimer.

It’s down to Bruckheimer, because even if he didn’t conceive of this affront to international relations — and maybe he did; who can guess how he thinks? — he made it happen, which is worse. When you, my fellow Americans, are slaving away in the dilithium mines of Vghthulm III because our mates Down Under “forgot” to tell us that we were all meeting on the dark side of the Moon to plan our escape, think of Jerry. For he made it possible for this tale — of two morons from Brooklyn who singlehandedly conquer Australia — to be brought to a theater near you.

When one of the low-ranking bad guys calls our “heroes,” in his frustration at being defeated, “pansy-ass retards,” you can’t help but agree with him. Not to make fun of characters who are mentally challenged — they are, after all, usually far more entertaining onscreen, like Rain Man or the guys from Spinal Tap — but these two are really, really dumb. And really, really pathetic. It all started twenty years ago, when Charlie Carbone (Jerry O’Connell: Tomcats, Mission to Mars), who is too stupid to realize that the big blue thing abutting the beach is the ocean, met Louis Fucci (Anthony Anderson: Barbershop), who is too dumb to realize what a revolting caricature of the Performing Negro he is.

That’s just par for the course for what passes for humor in Hollywood these days. Early on there’s also one of the most ineptly shot car chases I’ve ever seen — courtesy of director David McNally, who also brought you Coyote Ugly, hence proving that he has it in for both genders — and a sad, sad showing from Christopher Walken (Catch Me If You Can, The Country Bears) as Charlie’s mobster stepfather. Throw in the usual poop jokes and spice them up with suggestions of homosexual fetishism — remember, this is a children’s movie — and already you want to vomit and the film has barely started. But it’s when the action moves from Brooklyn to Australia that it’s time to get genuinely worried about the fate of humankind (or at least American humankind).

If Charlie and Louis had two brain cells between them to rub together, they’d realize that the mission the mob has sent them on is mighty suspicious. But they don’t have two brain cells between them to rub together. Not that that will hinder them in the least, because Australia is nothing but Men at Work songs, drunken geezers, farting camels, and insane marsupials. The marsupials aren’t actually insane, of course — kangaroos are big and strong and not the most even-tempered of animals, but anyone would get pissed off at what Charlie and Louis do to the title character, indignities that include getting hit with a Jeep traveling full speed and being forced, in a dream sequence, to perform a rap song. But Australia is a funny place — it’s so, you know, foreign — and it’s so far away that surely those funny foreigners with the funny accents won’t mind if we poke a little fun in their direction.

Oh, but I almost forgot Jessie (Estella Warren: Planet of the Apes, Driven), the wildlife conservationist who helps Charlie and Louis track down the pissed-off kangaroo after they are stupid enough to let it run away with an envelope full of mob money. She’s resourceful and knowledgeable and tough and… American. That’s right: the only human character on the big, glorious continent of Australia, a place full of delightful people, isn’t Australian.

Go on, take the kids! Make sure they ingest all those disgusting stereotypes about the wacky Land of Oz! It’s only a movie, after all, all in good fun, and if those “g’day mate-ing” non-Americans can’t take a joke, to hell with ’em. America rules! If you’re not with us, you’re against us! Don’t think we won’t invade Sydney if we have to!

In closing, I’d just like to say that I, for one, welcome our new Slervoid overlords.


MPAA: rated PG for language, crude humor, sensuality and violence

viewed at a semipublic screening with an audience of critics and ordinary moviegoers

official site | IMDb
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