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Friday, January 17, 2003 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Movie Review

'Kangaroo Jack' lacks bounce

Seattle Times movie critic

Movie Review


*
"Kangaroo Jack," with Jerry O'Connell, Anthony Anderson, Christopher Walken, Estella Warren. Directed by David McNally, from a screenplay by Steve Bing and Scott Rosenberg. 89 minutes. Rated PG for language, crude humor, sensuality and violence. Several theaters.

Every movie has something to teach us, and from "Kangaroo Jack" we learn this: Hairdressers, even low-rent Brooklyn hairdressers traveling in Australia on a mission from the mob (yes, I'm getting to that), always have a pair of scissors concealed somewhere on their person, just in case they need to provide an emergency bang trim or something.

At least this is true in Steve Bing and Scott Rosenberg's boneheaded screenplay, in which it seems that the only reason for making the main character a hairdresser is so that he can whip out those scissors and cut a crucial rope, late in the movie. Imagine the script meetings: Hmm, if he's a plumber, or an insurance salesman, or an architect, how does he cut that rope? Hey! Let's make him a hairdresser! And then we can throw in some gratuitous hairdresser jokes! Now we've got a movie!

Um, well, yes, you have a movie, if that's what you want to call a collection of tepid chase scenes perked up, sadly, by moments of camel flatulence. Charlie (Jerry O'Connell, bland as ever) and Louis (Anthony Anderson), a pair of childhood buddies, accidentally tip off the Brooklyn cops to Charlie's Mafia stepdad's stash of stolen loot. (Christopher Walken, as stepdad Sal, speaks in bad-movie-mobster cadences and looks just a bit embarrassed, as well he should.) The guys are given a chance to redeem themselves: Deliver $50,000 to a Mr. Smith in remote Australia, they're told, and the mob will forgive them.

Once in the outback, our intrepid pair encounters a CGI-created kangaroo who hops off with the $50,000. (Maybe I'm out of touch with mobster finance, but this seems like an awfully lame amount for two people to be risking their lives over, no?) More complications ensue, involving camels, dingos, a drunken helicopter pilot and a very beautiful wildlife scientist (Estella Warren), who provides a love interest for Charlie and a textbook example of bad acting for the rest of us. Warren, a former model last seen in "Planet of the Apes," smiles sweetly when delivering her perfectly expressionless lines, as if apologizing in advance.

From the movie's title and its ubiquitous poster and trailer, you'd think the kangaroo played a crucial role; actually, he's barely in the movie, has no personality, and only sings and dances once, in a brief fantasy sequence. Far more entertaining are the camels, loftily dignified creatures who deserve far better than to be the target of fart jokes. They eye the camera elegantly, as if it's an inferior creature that nonetheless holds their interest. Somebody get these animals an agent — they've got more charisma than anyone else in this cast.

For the record, my 7-year-old companion loved this movie (we've agreed to disagree on it), especially the bathroom humor. But "Kangaroo Jack" leaves a few unanswered questions. Such as, does Christopher Walken really need a gig this badly? And, if those camels got together and wrote a screenplay, would it be better than this one? To the second question, I say, let 'em try.

Moira Macdonald: 206-464-2725 or mmacdonald@seattletimes.com.

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