In this lowbrow comedy set in the Outback, a kangaroo fills the role that dogs and chimps and the occasional talking pig have filled before. However, "Kangaroo Jack" shares little DNA with "Babe," as the titular marsupial plays straight man to a pair of mugging, bumbling dolts (Jerry O'Connell and Anthony Anderson). Despite generic special-effects scenes that have the kangaroo delivering knockout kicks and out-hopping a Jeep and a bush plane, "Kangaroo Jack" avoids the kind of scenery-chewing indulged in by the human actors. That's not saying much, but at least the kangaroo spews insipid dialogue and bad jokes only in fantasy sequences.
Boyhood pals Charlie (O'Connell) and Louis (Anderson) have a history of missteps with a cartoonish mob boss (Christopher Walken), who also happens to be Charlie's stepdad. (This back story is relayed courtesy of a clunky expository sequence.) After hapless Louis gets the chums into hot water again, the mobsters banish them to Australia with a lump of cash that is supposed to be delivered to a mystery man. This flat plot is obviously just to get Charlie and Louis to tangle with the kangaroo after he jumps off with Louis' baseball jacket, which has the $50,000 in mob money tucked into a pocket.
A showdown ensues with mob hit men who travel to Australia to retrieve the missing cash and to whack Charlie and Louis. But before that, the movie gives us irresponsible drinking in an Outback saloon, frat house-style sexual humor, flatulence jokes involving camels, and a romantic subplot designed to woo the female audience. Naturalist Jessie (Estella Warren), an Outback pro outfitted in Eddie Bauer chic, is a welcome presence in this witless escapade.
But "Kangaroo Jack" is the kind of numbskull comedy that has the smart girl toss her career into the wild to spend more time with feeble Charlie and his more feeble sidekick. The portly Louis is portrayed as the fool. He blows the chance to capture the kangaroo when ants invade his crotch; he shovels berries into his mouth, then suffers a gas attack. Coupled with Anderson's mugging comic style, it is hard not to cringe. It's puzzling to think about which audience "Kangaroo Jack" is aiming for. The film's crude humor and violence - cartoonish, but still violent - should offend parents of younger kids. Yet its ultra-broad, pratfall-filled comedy will satisfy only the most indiscriminate teens.
1 1/2 stars (out of 4)
Directed by David McNally; written by Steve Bing, Barry O'Brien and Scott Rosenberg; photographed by Peter Menzies Jr.; edited by John Murray, William Goldenberg and Jim May; production design by Gordon Liddle; music by Trevor Rabin; produced by Jerry Bruckheimer. A Warner Bros. Release, opens Friday, Jan. 17. Running time: 1:30. MPAA rating: PG (language, crude humor, sensuality and violence).
Charlie - Jerry O'Connell
Louis - Anthony Anderson
Jessie - Estella Warren
Sal - Christopher Walken
Movie review, 'Kangaroo Jack'
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