Kangaroo Jack (2003) / Adventure-Comedy
MPAA Rated: PG for language, crude humor, sensuality, and violence
Running Time: 89 min.
Cast: Jerry O'Connell, Anthony Anderson, Estella Warren, Christopher Walken, Michael Shannon
Director: David McNally
Screenplay: Steve Bing, Scott Rosenberg
Review published January 20, 2003
Although I'm not giving Kangaroo Jack a positive review, some people may be surprised that I am not going to be as harsh on it as many other critics have been. While I hate producer Jerry Bruckheimer's (Bad Company, Pearl Harbor) style of films about as much as any other reviewer, I make it a pledge to try to review each movie on its own merits, and not just use it as an excuse to thwack my favorite target just one more time. Truth be told, if anyone still needs a thwacking, it's Bruckheimer, so I won't say any other critic is being unfair, even if they are going overboard for what turns out to be rather innocuous fare.
There was another film which came out not too long before this, also set in the Australian outback, The Crocodile Hunter: Collision Course, and it's interesting to note how similar they are in plot. In the Steve Irwin flick, he tries to capture an elusive crocodile, while being chased by special agents out to get the beacon it has swallowed. In Kangaroo Jack, instead of a croc, we have a kangaroo wearing a jacket which contains $50,000 that is supposed to be delivered to a baddie in Australia by Charlie (O'Connell, Buying the Cow), the stepson of a Brooklyn gangster, and his lifelong pal, Louis (Anderson, Barbershop). Charlie and Louis know that their lives might be on the line if they don't retrieve the money, so with the help of a local wildlife expert, they set about trying to lure the kangaroo close enough to get the package before the Aussie gang or New York hitmen catch them first.
Kangaroo Jack will definitely have a fan base among boys aged from about 11 to 15, and had this come out when I was that age, I probably would have enjoyed it enough to plunk down matinee money. Now I'm a little older and more discriminating, and even though the film wasn't bad enough to inflict major damage to my mood or mental disposition, it certainly falls short of being interesting or entertaining by quite a bit. Sure, the cast is likeable, yet as funny as they try to behave, there really isn't a genuinely funny moment in the film. Instead, it is light and energetic in a way that feels amusing, even if the laughs are nowhere to be found.
Jack is directed by a previous Bruckheimer collaborator, David McNally, who was responsible for a much more disdainful flick, Coyote Ugly. I won't say he's a bad director, as he does show a certain visual flair, and competency in putting things all together. However, McNally, like others in Jerry's camp, is all gloss and little substance, never attempting to provide a genuinely profound or intellectual moment, for fear that someone in the audience may not understand it. It's about as basic a a film can get, and if it weren't so violent, it might be a passable family flick.
ONE MAJOR WARNING FOR PARENTS: don't be fooled by the PG rating. You may not want younger children seeing so many guns on display, some very crude humor, and sexual innuendo tossed about liberally. I'm not sure how this came in under the MPAA radar, but this should be rated PG-13, and a strong one at that.
Kangaroo Jack probably won't satisfy many except the aforementioned adolescent male youth, so if you aren't one yourself, my advice is to avoid what is most likely a waste of your time and money. It's yet another bad film from a producer who sees films as merely vehicles for profit rather than for pleasure, with about as much heart and soul as a CGI rendered kangaroo would have.
©2013 Vince Leo