Kangaroo Jack

April 3rd, 2003 Film, Film Reviews, Xpress

To the cynical, this will be another installment in the ‘sell the cuteness of Australia to American audiences’ series (no wonder they think the whole country is just a desert cattle station and we all wear akubra hats and wrestle crocodiles).

Otherwise, Kangaroo Jack is a good fun, good time movie going for the Ice Age and Toy Story market — a kids’ movie with enough obtuse gags that the grown ups will get a kick out of too.

Charlie and Lewis (O’Connell and Anderson respectively) are childhood friends bound by fate — and Lewis’ endless get rich quick scams that usually end up on the wrong side of the law.

It doesn’t help that Charlie’s stepfather is fearsome mobster boss Sal (Christopher Walken) — particularly when they bring the cops right into the middle of Sal’s warehouse full of hot goods (following a chase through Sydney standing in as Brooklyn — complete with New York police cars and cabs shipped over from the US).

Determined to be rid of his softheaded stepson once and for all, Sal sends both screwups down under to deliver a package of money to the menacing Mr Smith (Martin Csokas).

After the duo knock down a six foot red kangaroo on a dusty outback road, they jokingly dress it up in Lewis’ jacket for a few holiday snaps. But the roo, it turns out, isn’t dead. It springs away with Lewis’ jacket on — and the money in the pocket.

Drunk bush pilots, mobsters and gangsters, a beautiful wildlife officer and the stunning outback (partly real, partly CG, partly sound stages at Sydney’s Fox Studios) all converge to chase each other around the outback after the roo, the money and each other.

The comic frenzy that ensues will please the littlies (any toddlers in the theatre will only pay attention whenever the CG star is on screen), and a snappy enough scripting will make it more than bearable for the rest of us too.

O’Connell tries a bit hard as the sweet, goofy guy in over his head, and it’s up to fast-talking Anderson (also on screen right now in Cradle 2 The Grave) to lift the comedy above lame Disney territory.

Producer Jerry Bruckheimer pulls his considerable studio weight to make sure megaphone-holder-for-hire McNally ends up with some great looking effects, sets and action.

Statements by the studio say they reckon nobody will be able to tell the difference between the real and CG kangaroo, but they were obviously talking about the Moms and Pops of middle America and not us locals who live with them (you know — because they hop around our backyards). Jack doesn’t ‘fly’ quite the right way and his face is that tiny bit too ‘cowlike’.

Credit is due for using Australian actors and having them use real accents (despite peppering their dialogue with outdated bush slang) — it’s a long way from the On The Beach days of American Filmmakers using Ava Gardener and Anthony Perkins to portray Australians.

All in all it’s a typical Jerry Bruckheimer film — big, loud, fast, funny and totally devoid of depth. Only this time, it’s for the kids.

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