If you can imagine how painful it would be to wander aimlessly lost for days on end through the Australian outback, that's how the eighty-nine minutes of this film go by.

John J. Puccio's picture
John J.

I'm not sure which news is more distressing, that this movie cost $65,000,000 to make or that it took in over $67,000,000 in box office receipts.

My first experience with 2003's "Kangaroo Jack" came about through a trailer, I believe the same one included on the DVD. I remember it well because I saw it during a DVD Town staff get-together on the opening day of the second "Harry Potter" movie. After watching the trailer, all of us looked at each other in stunned disbelief, a couple of us breaking into laughter, it looked so bad. Well, the trailer wasn't kidding. The film is really bad.

By bad, I mean the film offers up vacuous characters in a simpleminded plot with pretensions of comedy but with no laughs. The movie stars Jerry O'Connell as the numb-skulled Charlie Carbone and Anthony Anderson as the equally dim-witted Louis Booker, a pair of thirtyish fellows, best pals since boyhood. Amazingly, the movie co-stars Christopher Walken as Sal Maggio, Charlie's New York mobster-boss stepfather, and Dyan Cannon as Anna Carbone, Charlie's mother. I say "amazingly" because while these actors are credited, they're hardly in the picture, Walken for a couple of scenes and Cannon for a couple of shots! I figure Cannon is on-screen maybe all of five seconds. I assume these older actors were being smart in not wanting to be seen long enough to be associated with the picture.

Anyway, the story line involves Charlie and Louis getting into trouble with the law during a high-speed automobile pursuit, leading the cops to a warehouse stashed with millions of dollars of stolen goods belonging to stepfather Sal's gang. Sal is so irritated, he sends Charlie and Louis off to Australia to deliver a large sum of money, $50,000, to an accomplice in crime; but his real motive is to see to it that neither thorns in his side ever come back.

Once Charlie and Louis get to Australia, they promptly lose the money to a kangaroo. You really want to know? Well, they run into the animal with their car and knock it unconscious. Then, being the dolts they are, they decide to dress up the animal with a coat and hat and take their pictures with it. Right, the coat with the money in it, with which the kangaroo, which they've nicknamed "Jack," hops off merrily when it recovers. So the rest of the movie is spent with Charlie and Louis chasing after an obviously computer-animated, animatronic creation that looks like a kangaroo in a coat and hat. Meanwhile, Sal's goons are following the pair to put them away in some lonely hole in the ground, and that's it. Everybody is chasing everybody, and none of it is funny.

Charlie and Louis are so stupid they have nothing on Lloyd and Harry from "Dumb and Dumber," except that Jim Carrey and Jeff Daniels were actually amusing. The alleged humor in "Kangaroo Jack" derives from the boys' idiocy and from various car chases, Australian accents, hallucinations, camel farts, and the sight of a large marsupial running around in a red jacket. If you can imagine how painful it would be to wander aimlessly lost for days on end through the Australian outback, that's how the eighty-nine minutes of this film go by.

A love interest has to develop for every hero of a comedy, no matter what the setting, so for Charlie it's the beauteous Jessie, a comely blonde research worker employed in the outback by a Wildlife Federation. She's played by the beauteous blonde Estella Warren, former swimming champion and current supermodel-actress, just the sort of woman you'd find single and available in the remote back country of Australia. Since the movie is rated PG, when she decides to take a bath in a river, she does so fully clothed.

I didn't laugh once during "Kangaroo Jack." Not at the characters, not at the situations, not at the gags, not at the poor kangaroo creation. And the only thing worse than the jokes is the movie's entirely forgettable soundtrack music. In fact, the entire motion picture is forgettable. What motion picture?

The film is presented in a wide 2.13:1 ratio anamorphic scope (a fullscreen edition is available separately), in bright, sometimes garish colors. These hues are generally deep, but they aren't particularly natural. Most flesh tones look too dark, and none of the definition is especially sharp. The transfer is very clean, however, with few signs of grain, shimmering lines, halos, or other digital artifacts to be seen.

The Dolby Digital 5.1 sound displays strong dynamics, a wide stereo spread, and a decent frequency range. What's more, the surrounds are used to good effect for airplane and helicopter flyovers, squealing tires, car crashes, sand storms, and musical ambience. The audio doesn't have the deepest bass or the highest highs, nor will it wow anyone with its pinpoint channel separation, but it does its job with a minimum of fuss. Too bad it has such a mediocre soundtrack to work with.

In honor of a film that made over sixty-seven mil, Warner Brothers have provided the DVD with more extras than usual. First, there are two audio commentaries, one a full-feature commentary with the director, David McNally, the stars, Jerry O'Connell, Anthony Anderson, and Estella Warren, and the visual effects supervisor, Hoyt Yeatman; and the other a scene-specific commentary, about thirteen minutes worth, with Kangaroo Jack himself (the voice of Adam Garcia, uncredited). Then, there are four featurettes: "Casting Sessions--Uncut," two minutes; "Behind the Gas," three minutes; "Jackie Legs's Dance Grooves," five minutes; and "Marsupial Magic," four minutes. These featurettes take you behind the scenes to provide glimpses at visual effects, sound effects, and choreography. After that is a three-minute reel of gags and outtakes, followed by cast and crew information, filmographies, a widescreen theatrical trailer, and twenty-eight scene selections. English, French, and Spanish are included for spoken language choices and subtitles.

Parting Shots:
How do movies as bad as "Kangaroo Jack" get made? Who approves the scripts? Who endorses the final products? Why does producer Jerry Bruckheimer make 150 times more money than I do? OK, 200 times more.

The Wife-O-Meter gave it up about twenty minutes in, an appropriate 3/10 rating with which I concur. Later, she said it might make a cute film for kids, who are, after all, its primary audience. The snapper case proudly proclaims the film an Award of Excellence Winner from the Film Advisory Board, Inc., the organization that directs people toward wholesome "family" and "children's entertainment." I suppose gangsters, hit men, attempted murder, car crashes, and alcoholism pass for family entertainment these days. The clincher for kids is the flatulence. For me, "Kangaroo Jack" was a long walk off a short cliff.


Film Value