Review: “Kangaroo Jack”

Some films you can tell from just the premise or a few seconds of footage that they’re going to be shockers, and the majority of the time they’re exactly as bad as you’d think. “Kangaroo Jack” was shot months ago and originally intended to be a much darker and more twisted black humoured comedy than the family-safe PG-13 flick that’s hitting theatres many months after it had originally intended.

What that old version would’ve been like is anyone’s guess, what’s here is too banal and direct-to-video style dull to be of any offense to anyone. Many Aussie film critics are no doubt sharpening the claws in readiness for the fun of tearing this movie apart in their reviews, but the sad truth is that while its bad enough that I wouldn’t even recommend it for a video rental, it’s certainly not a disaster and is more trite than anything else. A film like “Crocodile Hunter: Collision Course” had both CIA and mad pig farmer subplots which were far more embarassing and annoying than this.

Made for a whopping $60 million, of which maybe a quarter is visible onscreen – the harmless comedy is stocked with typical over the top slapstick outback and mobster jokes in a cobbled together script, but the cast and better than expected production values carry it further than it should. Despite the crap around them, O’Connell and Anderson make a solid comedic duo with a manic energy and chemistry which plays off each other well even if they’re regularly reduced to fart jokes involving camels.

Estella Warren and Bill Hunter turn in forgettable performances as a naturalist and alcoholic pilot respectively, whilst I hope both Christopher Walken and Marton Csokas got well paid for their rather embarassing roles. The less said about the shockingly cheesy CG kangaroo the better – every scene with it is just woeful to watch including a pathetic dream rap sequence. Director David McNally is well aware of the project’s flimsy premise and so keeps the pace moving quite fast as compensation. The mobster family subplots never really work – resorting to some big cliches including the blandly evil stepbrother Michael Shannon.

However the duo along with Warren trying to navigate the outback (which actually looks like the real outback for once, not the bush of North Queensland that “Survivor” used) proves the film’s highlight including a canyon pursuit scene and an anything but subtle but played for laughs love scene in a picturesque pond. Early scenes in New York which set up the pair’s friendship are quite fun including one hell of a truck chase, to a fun flashback. The soundtrack is quite easy to listen to with the odd classic pop song, but the ending of the film just stinks.

There’s a lot of typical screw-ups that can be seen with Hollywood trying to portray Australia on-screen. Sydney airport is pretty much what it looks like in reality but people still park out in front in jeeps and don acubras. When the boys are sent off on their mission, they’re told to drive 5.5 hours north of Sydney to Coober Pedy – not only the wrong direction but off time wise by several days.

Somehow they get to Alice Springs first where the bartender knows every obscure slang word there is for toilet except that actual term. With an 87 minute runtime it means things at least are over quickly. Its not “Master of Disguise” or “Serving Sara” bad, rather “Eight Legged Freaks” or “Big Fat Liar” bad. The under 12’s will probably have a good time, the rest of us though – this is best saved for maybe a 14 hour trans Pacific inflight movie if you can’t sleep.