Kangaroo Jack

Starring:
  • Maxim's Hottest Babe
  • Jerry O'Connell Committing Career Suicide
  • Anthony Anderson Making Fun of White People

 

 
Produced by a Very Weary Jerry Bruckheimer

Anthony freaks out after Jerry tries on the kangaroo suit.

Sympathy for the Devil

I'm concerned for Jerry Bruckheimer. Sure, he's the bane of film critics, but in an uncertain world, the words "Jerry Bruckheimer Presents" offer comfort: You know exactly what to expect. As JimmyO so judiciously explains in his review of Bad Company, there's "Good Bruckheimer" and "Bad Bruckheimer, but the Bruckheimerian elements remain constant: The bizarre political and social subtexts, the homoerotic undertones, the orgasmic explosions, Kenny Loggins, noticeably confused actors, music video action sequences, et cetera. I've taken the Rick Ferguson position on Jerry and stopped fantasizing about his death, developing a grudging admiration for his ability to draw a crowd. Some critics may see him as movies' Mephistopheles, but to apply a standard set for his entrepreneurial ancestor, has he ever "befooled the public to its injury"? Jerry Bruckheimer is cinema's P.T. Barnum, peddling Tom Thumbs and Freejee Mermaids of the big screen, his trailers most like old circus bills. Perhaps Jerry takes the Ringmaster's The Art of Money-Getting a bit too literally, but like his forefather, he has pressed himself into Americana by being nothing less than a total patriot: Just as PT paraded Joyce Heth around as George Washington's nurse, Jerry dropped Pearl Harbor on us.

I may not agree with Eric Fretz' characterization of Barnum, "a man of varying social selves who stylizes his life, as well as the public lives of others, to become the quintessential public man of the age", nor shall I apply such lofty adages to Jerry Bruckheimer, but as a key player in the shaping of cinema in the technological age, Bruckheimer's importance shouldn't be understated. He has made a business of associating the public's jingoism with the military's ability to make things explode, but I think he's becoming more admirably cynical toward his audience. One of my favorite scenes on television the last few years comes from Bruckheimer's "The Amazing Race", in which a middle-class married couple traverses a bridge over Victoria Falls, so focused on winning a race to the gold that they fail to admire one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. He may have swelled our American pride by representing The Greatest Generation with the World's Sexiest Man, but the couple who barks at South African Zulus (for not speaking English) couldn't be more ugly. He took the suckers' dollars by revising World War II, but when he released Ridley Scott on the streets of Mogadishu to bring us the dirty details of Black Hawk Down, maybe Bruckheimer attempted the biggest stunt of all: Getting the rest of our dollars with something that resembles art.

At least, that's what I had hoped for. But producing Pearl Harbor, Black Hawk Down, and "C.S.I." seems to have brought more grist to Bruckheimer's mill than he can handle. In other words, I think Jerry Bruckheimer has gone insane. Bad Company is too inert to raise any fuss about, but Kangaroo Jack, I think, qualifies as Bruckheimer's Jumbo the Elephant. Certainly Kangaroo Jack fits the general requirements of Barnum's humbuggery, but the more pertinent question is whether it indeed befools the public to its injury. Kangaroo Jack began as a brain fart of Scott Rosenberg, who scripted Con Air and Gone in 60 Seconds. According to Patrick Goldstein at the Los Angelos Times, originally this film was Midnight Run Down Under, complete with the usual teenager targeted, teasing sex-and-stunts that catapults Bruckheimer fare like Gone in 60 Seconds into the black. But Disney, for whom Bruckheimer produces, passed on the project. He took it to Warner Bros., for whom it tested badly, but upon seeing the positive marks kids gave the kangaroo, and, disastrously, the weekend box office of Snow Dogs, Jerry decided to turn his "hip mob comedy" into "an adorable kangaroo picture." "I told Alan, 'Let's make the kangaroo talk,' " Bruckheimer recalls. "We did a dream sequence where he raps, we changed the title to 'Kangaroo Jack' and we made it much more kid-friendly all around." Do those sound like the words of a man with command of all his faculties?

Of course they needed a PG rating, so Bruckheimer set about the task of excising the objectionable stuff out of the movie. This should have been a red flag for somebody at Warner Bros.—who thought it a good idea to let Jerry Bruckheimer edit a movie for kids, considering that his entire career has been an exercise in desensitizing them to sex, violence, and language? Here's what was left in: an old man getting drunk and passing out several times, the word "ass," a man with a knife held to his throat, a joke about Jerry O'Connell's balls, the lead duo playing Weekend at Bernie's with a roadkill kangaroo, plenty of fat jokes, jokes about epilepsy, but most notably, there's Jerry O'Connell mistaking Estella Warren for a mirage and grabbing her tits, and Miss Warren taking a waterfall shower in a white t-shirt. In short, Kangaroo Jack is more smutty than Shrek.

I'm not going to hold Bruckheimer at fault: Had the MPAA done its job, they would have made Jerry spend another $10 million to reshoot Estella Warren's tits scenes. But they didn't, and until Bill Clinton or whoever replaces Jack Valenti as the president of the MPAA, the public's trust in Hollywood will be compromised. Still, Jerry should know better. We trust the circus ringleader not just to entertain us, but to ensure our emotional safety. There's an unspoken trust that the trapeze artists won't fall, the lion won't chomp the tamer's head, the tiger will make it through the flaming hoop, and as long as Jerry Bruckheimer has twirled his mustache and directed his spotlight, we've trusted that deaths would be earnest, nipples would be concealed, profanity would be mild, and the good guys will always win. I had hoped that Bruckheimer might, in the twilight of his career, walk the path of Barnum: find his Jenny Lind and bring opera to the masses. True, Bruckheimer's operas would be the oratorios of violence, but did Black Hawk Down not ask for redemption from a devil-done-good? Unfortunately, this Barnum lost his Bailey six years ago, and Jerry Bruckheimer's success without long-time collaborator Don Simpson may prove too much of a burden.

What has me worried is Bruckheimer's initial interest in this project: "I loved the idea," he recalls. "It was interesting, clever and I hadn't seen a film with a kangaroo in years." He hadn't seen a film with a kangaroo in years? Jung told us that dreams are windows to the soul, and I'm afraid Kangaroo Jack's hallucinations are a glimpse into the inner life of Jerry Bruckheimer. I will admit laughing out of my chair when Kangaroo Jack started rapping and dancing, then rolled around in dollar bills raining from the sky. In fact, one the final scenes of Kangaroo Jack perhaps summarizes Bruckheimer's entire career: The boys embrace after getting the money back from the kangaroo, about which Anthony Anderson tells Estella Warren, "Hey, we're having a very non-homosexual moment over here!" Let's hope the next Tony Scott/Bruckheimer collaboration is as forthcoming, or at least Will Smith and Martin Lawrence stop flapping their gums long enough to tell each other, despite being Bad Boys, how they really feel. Yet, I'm afraid, Ringmaster Jerry has lost the grip on his whip.

The Pitch:
 
Bad Company
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The Crocodile Hunter: Collision Course
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Snow Dogs
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1 Kangaroo Jack
See It For:
Jerry Bruckheimer's insane hallucinations.