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G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra (2009)

Reviewed on 2009 August 25

I had reservations about this thing from the first trailer I saw in the theater — a movie based on toys? — but the cast looked interesting, even though the concept sounded ridiculous. Lots of cameos from good actors and a featuring a favorite of mine, Christopher Eccleston, as a bad guy. Cast won over plot and I gambled on this thing, and felt my I.Q. points being leached for about 120 minutes. I will give this one morsel, just because the acting was mostly decent (more on that later), and because for once someone put a villainess in a silly leather outfit but then grew a brain and gave her flat boots.

After an entertaining, baroque exposition that gave us a reason for the McCullen clan being a long line of Scottish rotters (and false hope for an actual story), we zoom into the present day. James McCullen (Eccleston) is a scheming megalomaniac arms dealer like his ancestor, only instead of better battering rams, he purveys the high-tension stuff: nanomites. These little gizmos chew through anything, metal included, the way Congress goes through tax dollars; and the army is delighted to buy lots of toys from McCullen and his team. What they don’t know is that McCullen, like zillions of McCullens before him, is a Celtic scumbag who sells his weaponry to anyone, and who also has an ego that rivals his greed. The Army realizes it’s going to have to assemble a special team of Joes to fight McCullen and his lackeys like The Baroness (Sienna Miller) and Storm Shadow (Byung-hun Lee). Lucky for us, we have General Hawk (Dennis Quaid) training our dogs in the fight: among others we have Heavy Duty (Adewale Akinnouye-Agbaje) to crack the whip, Breaker (Said Taghmaoui) to do the computer stuff, and Duke (Channing Tatum), who initially seems to want to brood and pout McCullen to death.

And after that stuff just blows up for an hour and forty-five minutes. There was lots of ’sploding in Independence Day and District 9 too, but they had better fleshed-out characters and a storyline to string the action together. This was as shiny and flashy as a Lava Lamp, but with less detail. In its defense some people picked apart the acting, and I think that’s unfair. I thought it was decent to very good. Come on, even Julia Child couldn’t do much if you gave her a box of Hamburger Helper and an EZ Bake oven. If I sound harsh, it’s because it was directed by Stephen Sommers, the same guy who gave us The Mummy, and written by Stuart Beattie, who penned The Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl. I know they can do better than having someone encouraging somebody to speak to a piece of voice-activated equipment “in Celtic”.

Here, Christopher. This is for you.



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