Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Eric Mays might have some kind of weird marsupial fetish

One day, with no provocation at all, author Eric Mays of Naked Metamorphosis and The Authors Speak series of interviews sent me a review of supersonic turkey Kangaroo Jack. As supersonic turkeys go, this one could kick the shit out of The Giant Claw, both the movie and the giant claw itself, whatever that thing is supposed to be. This after I told him "we review good movies here, dammit!" I just don't understand this guy. First, he besmirches the good name of Vincent Price and Lionel Atwill and now this. It's just unsettling.

Here it is: Kangaroo Jack reviewed by Eric Mays

Australia has given us some mighty big personalities and some mighty big films. Paul Hogan, Russell Crowe, Mel Gibson, and Hugh Jackman are all larger than life examples of the rustic Australian breed. Films like “Gallipoli” and “Mad Max” tackle vengeance and courage. But the island continent may not be able to handle its largest star. Or, what should be the resounding champ.

On the surface it may be mocked as a family friendly piece of tripe. But, like onions, parfaits, and the Earth itself, it has layers. This is more than just a clich├ęd kiddie flick. This is, by far, one of the most original masterpieces ever shot on film. And it should be recognized in the annals as such.

“Kangaroo Jack” is based on an urban legend about two kids from Boston hitting a kangaroo while vacationing in the outback. After hitting the marsupial with their Land Rover, they dressed it up in a Red Sox jacket and snapped photographs of it. Obviously, the kangaroo was not deceased, merely unconscious, and it hopped into the Aussie wild, still adorning the Sox jacket.

That’s a just a very one dimensional story. It would take a true writing genius to transform an urban legend into such a notable classic. Enter one Steve Bing, writer of Missing in Action 2 and an episode of “Married with Children” entitled “Desperately Seeking Miss October”. Mr. Bing is a comic genius capable of truly great things. He takes the simple concept and transforms it into a comedic masterpiece featuring the mafia, two hapless guys, and the aforementioned ‘roo.

Headlined by Jerry O’Connell (who has not been in better form since “Stand By Me”) and Anthony Anderson (who also displays the comic timing that rivals Groucho Marx), “Kangaroo Jack” deals with the horrors that befall two individuals when they get caught up in the mob. Charlie and Louis have a “job” to do for Mr. “Sal” Maggio (Oscar-winner Christopher Walken, rekindling the chops that brought him that award for “The Deer Hunter”). That job? Deliver 50,000 dollars to Australia.

However, that $50,000 is swiped by a rogue kangaroo, as you may have expected. By trading the Red Sox jacket for $50,000, screenwriter Steve Bing has placed us in a higher stakes game of intrigue that movies lack these days.

And producer Jerry Bruckheimer has taken the concept (which may sound somewhat recycled) and brought in the absolute best. 3-time Oscar winner Dyan Cannon, soon-to-be Oscar nominee Michael Shannon (nominated in 2008 for “Revolutionary Road”), and director David McNally, of the overlooked and underrated “Coyote Ugly” (seriously, where was Piper Perabo’s and John Goodman’s Oscar nom?). And after the success of “Snow Dogs”, Bruckheimer makes a bold choice in using CGI to make the kangaroo talks. A risk? Perhaps. But it pays in dividends.

It seems troubling to say that all this movie lacks is the appropriate audience, but it’s that good. The movie is filled with gems that more contemporary films lack. Take for instance this line from Anthony Anderson: “We’re just having a very intimate, non-gay moment”. Hilarity! Or Jerry O’Connell’s matter-of-fact way of stating the obvious, while adding a sense of dread, when he declares: “I just got my ass kicked by a marsupial.”

Sure, it seems like this is appropriate for the pre-pubescent set. Think what you will. That age group gets things that others could only dream of. If you watch – really watch – then you’ll find depth, intelligence, and the best use of “Rapper’s Delight” ever used in film. “Kangaroo Jack” should be recognized as the “Citizen Kane” of kangaroo films.

4.5 stars out of 5

P.S
Congratulations, Eric on being the sole entrant and winner of the Legumeman Books Kangaroo Jackstravaganza. Enjoy your prizes. In retrospect, perhaps if I had called it the Kangaroo Jackoff it would have had more interest. Hindsight's 20/20 I guess.

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