G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra

By Mark Ramsey | 2009/08/10

G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra is set in the “not too distant future.” Unfortunately, that future is not distant enough.

Are you as embarrassed for having seen this crappy movie as I am? The studio didn’t screen this one for the critics – that’s like not allowing a taste-test when you know the food is poisoned. And this cinematic junk food is more toxic than a field trip of swine flu school kids.

You know you’re in for a rough ride when a movie is produced by a company, Hasbro, whose finest product is a barrel of monkeys. Having once hung those monkeys arm in arm and thus exhausted the play potential of that toy in about sixty seconds, one can only acknowledge the endless wrong paths that could be taken by a movie based on that greatest of American heroes, G.I. Joe.

And good luck finding a path here that isn’t wrong.

gijoe_sienna.jpgNot that any of it matters, of course. The moviegoing public will have its fix of commandos in costumes that resemble either Iron Man or Transformers or both.

When a G.I. has a fatal pulse beam headed his way and screams “Oh My Gosh!” you know you’re fighting the Battle of the Ratings Board, where massive casualties are acceptable, but taking the Lord’s name in vain will send you back to the cutting room.

Ah, the plot, such as it is. We learn that a defense contractor has invented “nanomites”: Microscopic soldiers that can eat through a tank, a national landmark, even an entire city like an army of tiny Artie Langes!

Pity poor Dennis Quaid whose once trim features are as heavily padded as anything surrounding G.I. Joe’s mechanical getup. Quaid’s nose alone seems to be carrying a troop transport of reinforcement flesh.

“Congratulations,” said General Dennis Quaid. “This squad will be the first in this nation’s army to sport camo-gear with shoulder pads!”

Quaid’s secret government lair is located deep under the Sahara, just beyond the Pyramids. “I was digging out a new office when I uncovered the lost tomb of Queen Nefertiti, and I’m like, ‘What’s this Egyptian broad doing in a U.S. Government facility?!’”

gijoe_ninja.jpgDown the elevator goes into the desert sands – a man-made lake at this level, a working reconstruction of the Bush years at the next level, Kim Kardashian’s closet at the level past that.

Hey, that’s Marlon Wayans as one of our G.I. heroes! I don’t know about you, but when I think “military special forces” the first thing that comes to my mind is the term “Wayans Brothers.”

Somewhere between the Joe of my youth and the Joe of the Big Screen, the foxholes have been replaced by foxes. And the image of terrorism has enjoyed major cosmetic upgrade, now featuring skin-tight leather outfits, plenty of cleavage, perfect lipstick, and sparkling white teeth that gnash at the very thought of truth, justice, and the American way. Never has the notion of screwing the terrorists seemed so appealing.

If Sienna Miller is the new look of terror, then Homeland Security had better frisk everyone exiting the Playboy Mansion. And I say “exiting” because even Homeland Security can’t keep up with all the entering in that joint.

Nearly every actor spends at least part of this movie as a 3-D hologram. “I’m a big believer in an actor possessing at least two more dimensions than the rest of the movie,” said Christopher Eccleston, who thanks God daily for having the kind of foreign accent characteristic of movie-land international super-criminals.

What performances! No, I mean what performances? This is the kind of acting talent usually reserved for a cruise ship or the BeetleJuice stage show at Universal Studios. “It’s great practice for a career in commercials,” said star Channing Tatum. “I’ll save the day, for I am prettier than a girl! Easy, breezy, beautiful, Cover Girl, that is!”

This is what happens when you hire actors who are dumb as rocks but look good in form-fitting uniforms brandishing state-of-the-art CGI weaponry.

“What’s with all this CISCO product placement?” asked co-star Jonathan Pryce. “Are folks in this audience in the market for a data center switch?”

Last but not least is the Cobra himself – Part man, part vacuum cleaner, and the creator of a race of super-soldiers who feel no fear. Says the Cobra, “Not unlike when Hitler crossed Aryans with Gorillas and came up with a fearless race of warriors who liked banana-flavored Becks!”

So the bad guys have nanobot missiles and they need to get them “weaponized,” which is a fancy word for spinning them around in a crystal cylinder until they glow green. Then they can be fired at the Eiffel Tower so it can dissolve into a nanobot stew, which is just where my brain was headed at about this point.

Director Stephen Sommers knows no shame. Nor would he know a character arc if it were stuffed inside Dennis Quaid’s already bulky nose.

“I knew I left my character arc somewhere,” exclaimed Quaid. “But I thought it was in the divorce settlement to Meg Ryan.”

I still can’t figure out what this movie is about, other than one incredibly dumb moment after another.

Evidently, on some August weekends, that’s enough.


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