As big, dumb, action and explosions and “hell, yeah, ooyah” movies based on toys go, this one is a lot of fun. Jon M. Chu, director of two of the “Step Up” movies and producer of the third knows how to shoot movement and understands pacing and tone.
In an opening lifted from “The A-Team” (and others) our heroes, the “Joes” elite military unit saves the day and then gets discredited after an ambush wipes out almost all of them and the President of the United States (Jonathan Pryce, having a lot of fun) goes on television to say that the Joes betrayed our country by trying to steal nuclear weapons.
If the Joes are not traitors and the President says they are, something must be wrong. The surviving Joes include Roadblock (Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson) and Lady Jaye (Adrianne Palicki). Dodging the various bad guys trying to kill them, they find their way to the original Joe, retired General Joe Colton (a tough, wry, and completely terrific Bruce Willis), and (spoiler alert) save the day. Until next time.
When a movie begins with a big Hasbro logo, we know we’re not here for the witty repartee. This is a movie based on toys. That’s why it does not really matter when it seems like the script was inspired by listening in on a group of seven year-olds making up stories for their dolls, I mean action figures.
And the dialogue is surprisingly entertaining after all, delivered with great relish by two masters of tough guy witticisms, plus reigning sexiest man alive Channing Tatum. “Brazil’s” Jonathan Pryce has some choice moments, explaining one of the benefits of being President: “I got to hang out with Bono.” And he gets to blow stuff up. “It’s good to know we’re not running low on crazy,” he smiles when welcoming some bad guys to the party, and he plays a game on his phone in the middle of a meeting of world leaders. There are even a few shrewd political jibes, and some patriotic references to Fort Sumpter and the American Revolution. And there’s a bad guy with an oxygen tank like Darth Vader and Bane who is more into putting his logo all over everything than Donald Trump. He even brands his weapons of mass destruction.
Roadblock, asked to say some words of inspiration before going into battle, calls on a noted theologian: “In the immortal words of Jay-Z, whatever deity may guide my life, dear lord don’t me die tonight.” And there’s plenty of deadpan tough guy talk. The other side’s weapons are “cold war stuff but it will still put a hole in you.” Roadblock wants to vanquish the bad guys in time to get home for “Top Chef.” And he loves his little girls.
But we’re here for the stunts, and they deliver, especially one bravura fight that’s part bungee cord, part rappelling rope, part zip wire. With ninjas. In 3D. That’s worth your price of admission right there. These are guys who literally bring a knife to a gun fight and make it work. Ooyah. On to #3.
Parents should know that this film includes constant peril and action-style military violence with guns, explosives, swords, knives, and martial arts, cataclysmic damage, characters injured and killed, brief disturbing images, brief scenes of a woman in skimpy clothes, and some strong language.
Family discussion: Who is Storm Shadow loyal to? Why did Roadblock take the dog tags? What would your “Joe name” be?
If you like this, try: the first “G.I. Joe” movie and “The A-Team”