Kangaroo Jack

(2003) * 1/2 Pg
90 min. Warner Brothers. Director: David McNally. Cast: Jerry O'Connell, Anthony Anderson, Estella Warren, Michael Shannon, Bill Hunter.

It was only a matter of time before Jerry Bruckheimer finally cracked wide open the urban-kiddie-mafia-marsupial-action-comedy genre he's always coveted so much. Today, the urban-kiddie-mafia-marsupial-action-comedy genre, tomorrow the world! All seriousness aside, let's start joking about Kangaroo Jack, a slick, well-marketed, surprisingly watchable movie that's also as dumb as a rock.

Kangaroo Jack has the Bruck touch of production value and formula bought from the Hollywood in-crowd (Steve Bing and Scott Rosenberg were undoubtedly compensated handsomely for the screenplay). Jerry O'Connell, who is white, plays New York hairstylist Charlie Carbone, whose life was once saved by best buddy Louis Fucci (Anthony Anderson, who is black). Because he owes Louis big-time, Charlie gets caught up in a delivery of TVs to be fenced. The physically game duo of O'Connell and Anderson have a good humor and sweet chemistry which--by cannily accessing inner childishness--takes this material much further than it deserves.

When the delivery goes haywire, to the tune of a big, big car chase, the buddies must answer to Charlie's stepfather, a mobster played by Christopher Walken. While this role doesn't live up to Walken's transcendent work in The Country Bears, it does come reasonably close. Anywho, Walken's ire inspires him to send the dufus duo to Australia to deliver dirty money, where through an inspired, hijinkical mishap, a kangaroo nicknamed "Jackie Legs" (a CGI performer assisted vocally by jack-of-all-animal-trades Frank Welker) hops off with $100,000. I know hijinkical isn't a word, but something about describing a urban-kiddie-mafia-marsupial-action-comedy just brings out the hijinkical in me.

Kangaroo Jack had a preview-audience theaterful of kids in hysterics with its shrill action scenes (full of hyper-real color, jacked-up editing, yelps and shrieks) and its distinctive blend of 'roo humor and scatology (love those farting camels). I know what you're thinking: that's pretty charming stuff. How could a kid resist? No argument here, but one might also wonder what kids are taking from heroes who blithely participate in or abet criminal activity, excessive drinking, and immature lusting (excused by a boys-will-be-boys mentality). Folks should have a lot to explain if they take their kids to this movie, but they may be too distracted by Estella Warren's kindly animal expert in a wet-T-shirt to focus on their parental duties. Score another one for Jerry!

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