From the Editor

Movie Review Archive

Thank you for checking out my movie review archive. I'm in the process of transitioning to something else, so I will no longer post new reviews to this blog. In the meantime, I will keep these reviews archived; these are from the fall of 2008 to April 2011. Please watch this blog for more info and keep in touch (you can still find me on Facebook and Twitter). Here's to more great movies!

Wes Singleton

North Texas Film Critics Association

Sunday, August 2, 2009

G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra - C+

PG-13 for strong sequences of action violence and mayhem throughout, 118 minutes

Empty but entertaining "G.I. Joe" a guilty pleasure

Well, at least it's better than "Transformers 2." That's like comparing Meryl Streep to Paris Hilton in terms of acting, but it's true. Paramount Pictures decided not to screen "G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra" for critics for fear it'd open to scathing reviews like the "Transformers" sequel, given that "G.I. Joe" looks just as loud. "G.I Joe" surprisingly isn't that terrible but not overly great; it's busy, fast-paced, somewhat useless but somewhat entertaining on a guilty pleasure level. Those of you who grew up with the action figures may be disappointed, as this big-budgeted but empty movie bears no resemblance to the toys but is based more on the comic book version that came a little later.

In the near future, weapons expert James McCullen (Christopher Eccleston) has created advanced technology capable of destroying an entire city. Duke (Channing Tatum) and Ripcord (Marlon Wayans) are delivering the warheads when they are ambushed by the Baroness (Sienna Miller), who works for McCullen. McCullen has sold some good stuff to the U.S. Government but is all part of his evil plan to create his own army with his evil associates The Doctor (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) and the Baroness.

Duke and Ripcord become a part of the top secret elite G.I. Joe team headed by U.S. General Hawk (Dennis Quaid) and includes Scarlett (Rachel Nichols), Snake Eyes (Ray Park) and Heavy (Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje). The Joe's, as they are known, must work against time in all parts of the globe before McCullen and his villianous army destroy and take over the world with their advanced nuclear weapons.

Utterly ridiculous, disposable but modestly enjoyable "G.I. Joe" is the next big action adventure franchise. It's slow in getting started in its first half, but picks up halfway though and is peppered with loads of nifty, energetic but busy special effects and gadgetry. Stephen Sommers, who helmed the first two "Mummy" films and "Van Helsing," overloads the film to take the focus off the wooden acting and ridiculous plot. The best parts of "G.I. Joe" are when it doesn't take itself too seriously, with the dramatic elements handled in "All My Children" fashion with everyone connected to each other in some way.

The biggest flaw with "G.I. Joe" is that relies heavily on pretty boy actor Channing Tatum. Big mistake, given that Tatum's acting skills are considerably limited, as in Paul Walker limited. He displays no emotional depth and his line readings are so bad they seem like cue cards were placed in front of him. Marlon Wayans is there for comic levity, but there's so much going on he's largely nonessential, while the lovely Sienna Miller is a notch above Tatum as far as acting ability is concerned. They make for good eye candy, which is really all that's needed for a film like this.

The three best actors from "G.I. Joe" are considerably underused in small parts. Dennis Quaid has just a handful of scenes as Hawk, as does character actor Jonathan Pryce as the U.S. President. But the most memorable is Joseph Gordon-Levitt (seen most recently in the wonderful "500 Days of Summer") as the evil Doctor, hardly recognizable under heavy makeup. He's hammy, over-the-top and chews on scenery, but seems to have fun; you wouldn't even know it's him had they not shown him sans makeup in a couple of flashback scenes.

Sommers handles the busy non-stop special effects, gadgets and action set pieces well, with the most memorable being a breathless, action-packed chase scene though the streets of Paris followed by the destruction of the Eiffel Tower. The heavy-handed, overdone climax leaves it open for more installments, which there almost certainly will be.

With "G.I. Joe" the next big action-adventure franchise, it seems designed exclusively as a popcorn movie for the masses and it will likely be a big hit in spite of the critical drubbing toward the film. Given how vacuously entertaining and enjoyable it is, at least there's room for improvement in the next two or three sequels.