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2 out of 4 stars


G.I.Joe: The Rise of Cobra

  • Directed by Stephen Sommers
  • Written by Stuart Beattie and David Elliot
  • Starring Dennis Quaid, Channing Tatum, Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, Sienna Miller, Christopher Eccleston, Marlon Wayans and Joseph Gordon-Levitt
  • Classification: PG

The new G.I. Joe movie cost $175-million (U.S.) to make and is as cluttered as a nine-year-old's bedroom. Nevertheless, the only half-way decent kids' action movie of the summer somehow manages to capture the simplistic pleasures of little boys playing war in a sandbox.

X-Men Origins: Wolverine and Transformers 2 are the work of grown ups working too hard at being fun. At the very least, G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra knows how to kid around.

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The plot feels both familiar and far-fetched. A squad of global crime fighters go toe to toe with an evil, wafer-thin Scottish arms dealer. The fight is plainly unfair. Destro (Christopher Eccleston) has nuclear hardware, an army of reptilian super villains, and a sexy hit woman in Sarah Palin eyewear (Sienna Miller). Whereas all the Joes have going for them are bulging biceps and stubby nicknames: Duke (Channing Tatum), Ripcord (Marlon Wayans), Heavy Duty (Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje) and General Hawk (Dennis Quaid).

Still, no need to ask who is going to win. Or whether our sand box survives. In its berserk, two-hour running time, G.I. Joe features a dozen calamities: Trains are pulverized and ice caps, melted. In the film's big, noisy centrepiece, the Eiffel Tower is swatted aside like an unwanted toy on Boxing Day. Still, kids will understand that the characters - all based on Hasbro play-toys - are action figures. Even if their arms are yanked off, Duke and Destro will be good as new tomorrow. Same with our ice caps and the Eiffel Tower. Well, maybe not the ice caps.

For all its crazily moving parts, the new G.I. Joe is easy to follow. Transformers 2 was like a football game played in the mud. Most scrimmages, it was impossible to tell one team from another. Not G.I. Joe. In the ongoing Ninja fight scenes, one Ninja wears white; the other one, black.

The film, which is directed by Stephen Sommers (The Mummy), also masters the comic book art of snappy, cartoon balloon dialogue. Most of the short, sharp punch lines connect. Sample sparring: Heavy Duty: "What you see before you are Delta-6 accelerator suits."

Ripcord: "What do they accelerate?"

Heavy Duty: "You."

Adult viewers will find stuff to complain about here. The film is too long. Too loud. Miller spills from her costume without ever filling out her character. Only Eccleston (Dr. Who) as the chief villain and Wayans' clowning Ripcord are really any fun.

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Make no mistake, G.I.Joe: The Rise of Cobra isn't family fare, or a kids' movie adults will enjoy, like Up . Actually, it kind of resembles the South Park gang's Team America: World Police played straight. The film is not without honour, however. There aren't many movies that can replicate the preposterous logic of child's play - sandbox scenes where a kid takes a toy plane in his hand and shouts out pilot's commands.

That scene actually takes place in the new G.I. Joe, as Ripcord steals one of Destro's fighter jets and knocks out a nuclear warhead by talking Gaelic (!) to the aircraft's instrument panel.

Speaking of childish, according to a studio spokesperson, Rob Moore, Paramount decided not to screen G.I. Joe "[in response to]the chasm we experienced with Transformers 2 between the response of the audience and critics."

As if critics have ever determined popular hits. Mr. Moore should learn from the great PR master, Andy Warhol, who once proclaimed, "Don't pay any attention to what they write about you. Just measure it in inches."

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