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DVD REVIEW

Kangaroo Jack  (2003)

 

Starring: Jerry O'Connell, Anthony Anderson

Director: David McNally

Rating: PG

Studio: Warner Bros.

Release Date: 6.24.03

Review Posted: 6.14.03

Spoilers: Minor/Major

 

Reviewed by Dennis Landmann

 

Synopsis

 

The chase is in when two bumbling Brooklyn buddies (Jerry OíConnell and Anthony Anderson) sent to deliver a $50,000 mob pay envelope (for Christopher Walken) cross paths with a hip-hopping prankster of a kangaroo (uh, Jack) who sprints off with the loot.

 

Critique

 

By no means is Kangaroo Jack is kidsí film and whoever proclaims it as such must be mad. Case in point, Jim Ferguson of FOX-TV, whose quote, "An action comedy for the entire family," appears on the front cover of the DVD. To that I say, "An action comedy for the entire family except the kids." Right, that sounds more applicable and sane. Another example is Neil Rosen of NY-1 News/New York whose quote, "Kids will have a hopping good time," appears on the back cover of the DVD. Well, you can figure out how Iíd change that quote.

 

But back to my point, Kangaroo Jack is a poor excusive for a family film when in fact the film plays more like a buddy comedy just screaming for PG-13 material! I mean, at least thatís what the script attempts to be, a buddy comedy. Steve Bing and Scott Rosenberg sold this project as a pitch and then wrote the script. Turns out after a test screening or two, Jerry Bruckheimer got an idea to make this into more of a kids-oriented feature by reshooting some scenes and creating more screwball scenes of Kangaroo Jack, therefore retitling the film from Down and Under to the odd, yet apt Kangaroo Jack.

 

I just want to state my opinion for the record (or lack thereof) to question the integrity of the PG rating Kangaroo Jack is classified with. The MPAA lists the following reasons for the rating: language, crude humor, sensuality and violence. Call me a monkey, well, a kangaroo under these circumstances, but since when are such things okay for kids? They never have been and should never be. Kids are the obvious marketing angle for this film, if you didnít know. Perhaps the $66 million gross at the box office is any indication of kids dragging their parents or parents dragging their kids to the multiplex. If not, consider the mysterious "Award Winner" label on the DVD cover, some sort of award of excellence from the Film Advisory Board, Inc. What the deuce? I have no clue who they are, so probably parents who took their kids to see the film thought the label is a good-natured indication of some sort.

 

The fact remains, even with a PG rating, Kangaroo Jack is still a mess of a film. The whole kangaroo subplot, Jack performing on-screen, mostly eating out of the red jacket, just doesnít cut it. It breaks the flow of the film. The real story here is with Jerry OíConnell and Anthony Anderson trying to make it out of Australia alive. After they realize (about an hour into the film, Iíd say) that the money they are supposed to deliver to a Mr. Smith is actually hit money for their own execution (so I spoiled that part, sorry), the film goes into action mode, somewhat. Not to mention the violence that ensues after said part in the film (though violence appears earlier as well).

 

Sure, there are a few rewarding things about Kangaroo Jack. For one, there humor is of general likeness (who can pass up on farting camels). The characters are like cardboards, but that doesnít mean they canít play off each other. OíDonnell and Anderson might (or might not) seem like unlikely buddies in the real world, yet in the film they get along and enjoy a good friendship. Estella Warren also stars, but her character is more convenient than absolute and refreshing (by golly, sheís the only woman in this film, not to mention the desert of Australia; at least in parts where the film takes place). What Iím saying his, Warren brings her natural beauty and charm to a film already falling through some cracks that are its flaws (how about that symbolism). To spice things up, naturally, Warren and OíConnell get together by the filmís end credits. In the end, itís a romance that works just fine. Christopher Walken is also in a few scenes, but it makes you wonder why he even showed up.

 

Kangaroo Jack is as every bit of a Jerry Bruckheimer production as Coyote Ugly. Both films are less than enthusiastic, but benefit from a few rewarding things. Kangaroo Jack even sports the look of a Jerry Bruckheimer production, with carefully planned and executed (action) scenes photographed by Peter Menzies, Jr. and director David McNally. The script shouldíve stuck to its original pitch, but probably wouldnít have produced any better results (if test screenings are any indication; and here we are, anyway). Kangaroo Jack is not as awful or terrible as many people proclaim. Itís just not very good in obvious ways. It also is not a film for any kid to see. In the end, Kangaroo Jack proves not everything is bad, just most of it.

 

The Video

 

Warner Bros. presents Kangaroo Jack in 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen. I didnít notice any artifacts or compression problems with this transfer. Grain or dirt doesnít show up either. The print looks pretty clean, actually. The scenery and landscapes of Australia are captured very nicely and this video presentation makes the best of such scenes. The colors are nice, some of them a little saturated. Color detail is also pretty good, but also a bit soft in a few spots. Dark tones and black level are mostly consistent.

 

Kangaroo Jack looks pretty good himself, despite him being a CGI creation in most close-ups. Some scenes, such as the waterfall kiss and night camp, are obviously set inside a sound stage. The set design is very nice, but itís the look of the sets that give away its real source. But anyways. Since this is a Jerry Bruckheimer production, the video presentation should be and is very good.

 

The Audio

 

Warner Bros. presents Kangaroo Jack in English Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound. Thereís a lot of music in this film, especially an instrumental variation of a Dr. Dre song that plays whenever Jack is on screen and does something (supposedly) funny. Trevor Rabinís score pops up a few times and generally carries a nice, familiar tune (heís worked with Bruckheimer before on other films). The other music consists of pop songs, some oldies, some recent ones (the obligatory "Soak up the Sun" at the end). Dialog scenes are clear and easy to understand.

 

For a soundtrack that uses this much music and even some good sound effects, I might add, the Dolby Digital 5.1 applies nicely. However, just because it applies nicely doesnít mean the surround usage is all that great. Itís generally fine, mind you, but not nearly as impressive as the video presentation. Overall, Kangaroo Jack sounds perfectly fine with some good areas of surround sound.

 

Kangaroo Jack is also available in French and Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtracks.

 

The Extras

 

Commentary by Jackís Good Buddies Ė To clarify, the buddies are Jerry OíConnell, Anthony Anderson, Estella Warren, Director David McNally and Visual Effects Supervisor Hoyt Yeatman. These guys have a lot of fun talking about the film and amongst themselves. They are very conversational and include trivia and jokes along the way. The enthusiasm in their comments is clear, but itís a little too bad the film theyíre talking about is not that enthusiastic. Still, itís fun listening to them. Even if the film is not very good, this commentary is in general.

 

Commentary by Kangaroo Jack Ė Adam Garcia, the uncredited voice of the Jack, provides a kind of bland commentary (all in Australian accent, ahoy!) on selected scenes that feature the popular animal. This feature runs some 14 minutes in length, but overall is not very informative or exciting. The voice, whoever is responsible for it, sounds excited and all that, but to no real effect as listeners will probably tune out after the first three minutes. Whatís the point of this, really? Jack is obviously a CG character. I guess the purpose of this feature is look clever or quirky, you know, boasting a commentary by Jack himself, but really, in the end itís quite ridiculous.

 

Casting Session: Uncut (~2 mins) Ė It feels more like Americaís Funniest Home Videos: Animal Style, though this feature edits together footage of various animals performing silly tricks as well as a few who just happen to be in front of someoneís camera. Itís like the Bob Saget show with dialogue dubbed over the footage. Itís a nice little extra, somewhat funny, but ultimately a little too short. But kids will love it!

 

Behind the Gas (~3 mins) Ė This feature explores the sound mixerís job of finding the perfect sound for the flatulent camels in the film. The humor in here is fine, but itís all just an act. The sound mixer here is actually portrayed by an actor and so is the supposed assistant. This is kind of odd, but kids will love it!

 

Gags and Outtakes (~3 mins) Ė This kind of feature is always fun to watch. Some outtakes are funnier than others, but thatís beside the point. Thereís one really natural, cute outtake between Estella Warren and Jerry OíConnell. Just as she delivers her line to him, a fly rests on her nose. Kids will love it!

 

Marsupial Magic (~4 mins) Ė Here we get a look at the computer and animatronics effects of the film. Kangaroo Jack talks over the images, which becomes a bit redundant (especially after his selected scenes commentary). Nevertheless, this feature shows some nice clips of behind-the-scenes happenings, animatronics and blue screen work, and scene to CGI comparisons. Kids will love it!

 

Jackie Legsís Dance Grooves (~5 mins) Ė So this is where you can learn about Jackís cool marsupial dance moves, but really itís just an educational dance video jazzed up with background music and a young instructor. Kids will have fun and will want to dance!

 

Also included is the filmís Theatrical Trailer plus cast/director/writer film highlights. In general, these features are geared more towards kids. The film itself is geared towards kids even though itís not suited up to be. The PG rating is also a little questionable. I mean, really. The extras are cute to have around and the angle on them is quite obvious, but their value is not all too substantial for common blokes (these are geared towards kids after all). The feature commentary is the only really interesting extra here.

 

You can select to view the film with optional English, French and Spanish subtitles. The DVDís menus are interactive, but not animated. The 89-minute feature is organized into twenty-eight chapters.

 

Overall

 

Kangaroo Jack is not all terrible; it does have some fun, rewarding parts, though thatís the bulk of it. Itís not coherent as subplots are confused between the ones that work and do not work. The video presentation is very clear and the audio transfer is pretty nice. Apart from a fun commentary, the rest of the special features hold no real value (except kids will love it Ė OK, thatís the last time Iíll repeat that sentence, ever). Kangaroo Jack is better off collecting dust on the video store shelf, however, if you care to have a hopping good time (hehe), you should (maybe) rent it (but only if you can sucker the store clerk out of paying full rental price). Thatís all, blokes!

 

As a side note, the film and this DVD never really acknowledge that Kangaroo Jack is really only a CGI creature/presentation, so the whole notion of referring to him as this actor or whatever he is is just tiring and ridiculous. Seriously.

 

RATINGS SUMMARY

 

THE MOVIE 5
THE VIDEO 9

THE AUDIO

8

THE EXTRAS

5

OVERALL (not an average)

5

 


 

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