Andy Bockelman: 'G.I. Joe' is fun but indulgent toy movie

Andy Bockelman

Andy Bockelman is a member of the Denver Film Critics Society, and his movie reviews appear in Explore Steamboat and the Craig Daily Press. Contact him at 970-875-1793 or abockelman@CraigDailyPress.com.

Find more columns by Bockelman here.

— For all those boys and man-boys who could only imagine what it would be like if your favorite action figure were to come to life, your day has come with "G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra."

Special ops soldiers Conrad "Duke" Hauser (Channing Tatum) and Wallace "Ripcord" Weems (Marlon Wayans) are among the best of the best the U.S. Army has to offer. So when they're entrusted to lead a military transport of highly destructive warheads, they take it very seriously.

But, even they could not predict interference from a completely unknown source, and when a mysterious covert cabal ambushes them, they can barely hold their ground.

In steps an equally furtive group to keep the skirmish under control - the international security agency Global Integrated Joint Operating Entity.

Under advisement from leader Gen. Clayton Abernathy (Dennis Quaid), G.I. Joe trains Duke and Ripcord to become their latest hires in their ongoing mission to foil the plans of the malevolent forces that conspire against them. But besides facing off against his former fiancee (Sienna Miller), Duke is about to learn how tightly he is entwined to the fate of the world.

Quaid isn't bad as Abernathy - better known as General Hawk - and his casual approach to the material makes the skilled veteran look heads better than the rest of co-stars, though their main fault is a lack of experience.

For instance, despite his muscular build and imposing scowl, Tatum just never seems that tough, at least not in the way you'd expect a "real American hero" to be. Wayans is great if you need some comic relief, but his dopey presence detracts from the seriousness of his sniper/pilot character, though he does try his darnedest.

A pause button is necessary to ascertain the names of the rest of the plethora of Joes, from Heavy Duty (Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje) to Scarlett (Rachel Nichols) to Breaker (SaÃid Taghmaoui), and their importance is minimal, at best. What Brendan Fraser is doing there is anybody's guess.

However, stunt man and martial arts expert Ray Park fares spectacularly as fan favorite Snake Eyes, a stoic, silent ninja who has a score to settle with one time adopted sibling Storm Shadow (Lee Byung-hun), one of the higher-ups of the evil opposition.

Speaking of, Miller actually downplays the campy elements of the Baroness de Cobray, who was once Duke's beloved Ana until a military incident destroyed her brother (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), leaving her emotionally broken and driven for revenge.

Naturally.

You can virtually feel the plastic throughout the whole movie as Joes and Cobras zoom around the globe in locales, costumes and transports that look like they came pre-packaged as one of the playsets of the official cartoon franchise.

Yet this isn't as off-putting as it sounds.

Aside from a near-pointless prologue that denotes the legacy of shifty arms manufacturer James McCullen (Christopher Eccleston) - the mask worn by his 17th century ancestor should look familiar to Joe fanatics - the movie is set in the vaguely defined "near future," and it certainly looks like it.

Although the story starts out stupid, slow and predictable - with a weirdly effective use of big band music - a thrilling high speed, high technology chase through the streets of Paris gets things going at the halfway point, and if you haven't gotten your adrenaline pumping by then, the remainder will probably fail to excite. Otherwise, it's solid action scenes from then on, fortunately masking the confusing, implausible plot and endless back stories that follow.

"G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra" may as well be subtitled "The Rise of Hasbro," with the toy company - and film production company-come-lately - following up "Transformers" with its other big toy line's jump to the screen.

Paramount's shrewd move to limit the amount of early screenings ensures less pre-release criticism even if the maneuver was downright sneaky.

What it comes down to is how well you tolerate the dialogue's casual droplets of catchphrases, from the original action figure's "kung fu grip" to the 1980s cartoon's pro-education mission statement, "Knowing is half the battle!"

The studio certainly recognizes the bearing of the latter.

How about you?

Now playing at the West Theater.

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