Film

Kangaroo Jack
Directed by David McNally
Warner Bros., opens January 17

Forget Rabbit-Proof Fence—if the Australian government thinks its continent is misrepresented now, wait until it witnesses the eco-demolition brought on by the harlequin twosome of Jerry O'Connell and Anthony Anderson in Kangaroo Jack. The witless premise is jump-started when the pair of Brooklynites, dispatched to the onetime penal colony on a cash delivery, smash their jeep into the titular mammal, and perform frat-house high jinks on the presumed corpse, which then awakens, drop-kicks the boys, and bounces off with their money. The colorless script (co-written by Liz Hurley's dubious impregnator Steve Bing, who would be wise to deny responsibility here as well) seems to have written itself from a patchwork of Wile E. Coyote cartoons, camel farts, and every high-pitched Aussie cliché to have echoed on these shores: Crocodile Dundee, Men at Work, even A Cry in the Dark. Producer Jerry Bruckheimer has an unparalleled knack for assembling Z-grade talent, particularly when operating in family-fun mode—find me even the most zonked-out adolescent who buys Estella Warren as an American wildlife conservationist. Virtually every shot of the kangaroo was digitally created, and perhaps that was an insurance policy masterstroke. Forcing a real live one to act opposite these co-stars could have easily constituted animal cruelty. —Joe McGovern


P.S. Your Cat Is Dead
Directed by Steve Guttenberg
TLA, opens January 17, at the Quad

Best known as co-author of A Chorus Line, the late James Kirkwood was to the movies born—his father directed Mary Pickford; his mother, popular silent star Lila Lee, played opposite Valentino. P.S. Your Cat Is Dead, Kirkwood's 1972 comic novel about a straight man who traps a gay burglar in his house, was a lit hit that appeared in a stage version in 1975, and its belated movie adaptation marks the competent directorial debut of Steve Guttenberg, who also co-scripted and stars as failed actor Jimmy Zoole. Jimmy's one-man Hamlet stage project was a bust, his girlfriend has walked out on him, and his cat is ailing. On New Year's Eve, he returns home (in contemporary L.A., where the setting has been shifted from Kirkwood's early-'70s Manhattan) to find his place being ransacked. His rage at boiling point, he knocks out the intruder and ties him down to the kitchen counter. Overjoyed at the prospect of tormenting someone else for a change, he toys with the thief, a hunky gay Mexican (Lombardo Boyar), and plies him with cat food. They trade insults for a while, but the two men eventually bond through mutual confessions and tales of woe, and the movie ends on a note of odd coupling. Intermittently engaging and moving, P.S.has gathered a bit of dust over the years. Still, it's nicely acted by the small cast: Guttenberg, a rumpled mess, makes a convincingly frustrated hambone, and Boyar brings a bit of verve to the role of burglar in bondage. Shirley Knight, one of the most gifted actresses of the 1960s (The Group, The Rain People), is not so lucky—wasted in the one-dimensional role of Guttenberg's rich-bitch aunt. —Elliott Stein


7th Street
Directed by Josh Pais
Opens January 17, at Cinema Village

A lifelong East Villager, actor Josh Pais (he was a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle and recently appeared in A Beautiful Mind and the indie Swimming) fashions this decade-in-the-making neighborhood chronicle from personal reminiscences and chats with local hippie holdouts and street-corner sages. The son of divorced parents—a physicist dad and a painter-poet mom—Pais moved with his mother to the ghetto frontier of East 7th between C and D in the '60s, attending Dalton uptown while residing in Alphabet City; after college and a brief Hollywood stint, he returned to live on that block, and continues to do so today. Only modestly useful as a historical document (the context is skimpy, the chronology fuzzy, and besides, Paul Morrissey's 1985 teenybopper gang movie, Mixed Blood, is hard to top for a close-up tour of the now lost East Village), 7th Streetnonetheless offers a rare child's-eye view of the counterculture and an honestly conflicted position on gentrification: The very circumstances that now allow Pais to raise his young son on these not so mean streets are forcing members of his onetime surrogate family to abandon the only homes they've ever known. —Dennis Lim

 
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