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Dustin Putman

Dustin's Review
Kangaroo Jack (2003)
2 Stars

Directed by David McNally
Cast: Jerry O'Connell, Anthony Anderson, Estella Warren, Marton Csokas, Michael Shannon, Christopher Walken, David Ngoombujarra, Dyan Cannon
2003 – 87 minutes
Rated: Rated PG (for violence, sensuality, mild language, and crude humor).
Reviewed by Dustin Putman, January 11, 2003.

If a person over the age of 12 walks into a movie called "Kangaroo Jack," it would probably be best if they were to lower their expectations first. How worthwhile, after all, could a lived-action film be in which there is a scene where a kangaroo belts out the lyrics to "Rapper's Delight?" The surprise, then, is that "Kangaroo Jack" is far better than it has any right to be (and for the curious, the singing kangaroo bit is thankfully only a dream). Silly and inconsequential, but also pain-free and passably entertaining, it is an unlikely action-comedy that is fast-paced enough to capture the attention of children, and smart enough (relatively speaking, of course) to make it fully tolerable for adults.

Charlie Carbone (Jerry O'Connell) and Louis Fucci (Anthony Anderson) are long-time best friends who unintentionally are always getting themselves into predicaments. When Charlie's crooked crime boss stepfather Sal (Christopher Walken) gives them a package with $50,000 inside and orders them to travel to the Australian Outback to give it to a mystery man named Mr. Smith (Marton Csokas), Charlie and Louis have no choice but to accept the assignment. Once there, their luck quickly runs out when they accidentally hit a kangaroo with their rental jeep. Believing it to be dead, they dress the marsupial up in Louis' jacket to take pictures, only for it come to and escape. The problem is, the jacket the kangaroo has on is carrying the money they need to deliver.

Energetically directed by David McNally (2000's "Coyote Ugly"), "Kangaroo Jack" is more fun than could possibly have been expected. As with practically any movie produced by Jerry Bruckheimer, it opens up with an exciting, if pointless, car chase, and continues with a series of comedic and death-defying action setpieces. As written by Steve Bing and Scott Rosenberg, the dialogue is occasionally quite witty and the kangaroo antics amusing. It only helps that the special effects are top-notch, digitally bringing the kangaroo to life with equal parts believability and outlandishness. A climactic action scene set over a cliff boasts real craftsmanship and even some suspense.

For what is being billed as family entertainment, however, "Kangaroo Jack" includes enough questionable material making one wonder what audience the makers really had in mind. The sporadic juvenile humor, including a sorely unfunny flatulence joke, oftentimes has trouble mixing comfortably with the sexual innuendo and gun violence on display. Additionally, one of the villains is seen several times wearing a necklace with an upside-down cross--a character trait that holds no purpose and is completely out of place. If ever there was a film that pushed the boundaries of the PG rating, it is this one.

As for the actors, they are clearly having loads of fun, upping the energy level around every corner. It is no secret that Anthony Anderson (2002's "Barbershop," 2000's "Me, Myself & Irene") is a gifted comedian, and here he is rightfully thrown to the forefront as Louis after a string of standout supporting roles. As Charlie, Jerry O'Connell (2001's "Tomcats") makes for a likable leading man and plays off of Anderson with an easygoing chemistry. While having less to do than the boys, Estella Warren (2001's "Driven") is charismatic as Jessie, an American outbacker who helps Charlie and Louis in their quest to retrieve the money from the fast-moving kangaroo. Meanwhile, Christopher Walken (2002's "Catch Me If You Can") returns to his usual bad guy roles, and makes little more than a forgettable cameo.

"Kangaroo Jack" won't be winning any awards come next winter, but if there ever was a category for "Worst-Looking Movie That Turned Out To Be Good," this one would deserve a spot within the nominations. High-spirited and even endearing (with a zippy soundtrack that includes, appropriately, the 80's classic "Down Under" by Men at Work), "Kangaroo Jack" is an enjoyable and undemanding way to spend 87 minutes.
© 2003 by Dustin Putman
Dustin Putman