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Article by Teddy Durgin

Durgin Retaliates Against G.I. Joe Sequel

My review of GI Joe: Retaliation may be a bit skewed, and here's why. OK, its no secret the film is based on the popular line of Hasbro toys, chiefly the franchises Real American Hero glory days of the 1980s and early 90s. The 80s and 90s ... that should be in my pop-culture wheelhouse, right? Wrong.You see, the GI Joe toy line and related cartoon series and comic book were hitting just as I was moving out of toys and coming of age as a teenager.This was that time period where the last of the original Star Wars movies was out and I was torn between collecting every new Rebel Alliance and Galactic Empire toy and moving on to more age-appropriate purchases at the mall like music and clothes. But the GI Joe toys were REALLY cool! The action figures actually had joints at the elbows and knees, so you could pose them better than the Star Wars figures. And GI Joe had an awesome Command Center playset that would have made a GREAT Rebel Base! Kenner never made a great Rebel Base. At any rate, GI Joe was really the toy line that I couldn't allow myself to like because I was too cool for toys by then. So, when I see a movie like GI Joe: Retaliation, there is a very fundamental part of me that doesn't connect with it. I think if it was a part of my childhood, nostalgia alone would give it a free pass. Similarly, if I was an 11-year-old boy today, Id think the flick was pretty awesome. It has everything an 11-year-old boy could want: big action, great stunts, cool vehicles and weaponry, good guys, bad guys, a couple of good-looking women. The fortysomethingTeddy appreciated most of that, especially Adrianne Palicki and Elodie Yung as butt-kicking Joe babes. But this curmudgeon now needs things that his 11-year-old self didn't need - things like a plot and good acting. The sequel picks up a while after the original. The evil Cobra Commander (Luke Bracey) is imprisoned. His Cobra terrorist organization has been seemingly neutralized. Duke (Channing Tatum) still leads the GI Joe forces, and Jonathan Pryce is still doing a poor job hiding his British accent as the U.S. President. Only now the character is hiding another big secret. He's been replaced by that rascal Zartan (Arnold Vosloo), Cobras master of disguises. After a successful opening mission to retrieve a stolen nuke, the Joes are thanked by Zartan's Presidential doppelganger who then goes all Order 66 on them. He declares them enemies of the state and eliminates pretty much all of the elite fighting force except for Roadblock (Dwayne Johnson), Jaye (Palicki), Flint (D.J. Cotrona), and Snake Eyes (Ray Park).Once the Joes are effectively neutralized, Cobra Commander is freed from prison by the ninja Storm Shadow (Byung-Hun Lee), an ultimate weapon code-named Zeus is deployed into satellite orbit, the American flag is stripped from the White House, and ... and ... Olympus has fallen! Olympus has fallen! Olym Er, sorry. Wrong movie. As a movie, I think Retaliation is a touch confused about what it wants to be. It tries to be all things to all demographics and international target markets. At times, it does play like a big-screen Hasbro toy commercial. At other times, its a red-blooded, American war movie. Then, at other times, its like one of those martial-arts, wire-fu flicks with loads of ninjas flying all over the place (the ninja fight on the side of a snowy mountain in Japan IS exceptionally cool). I just never connected with it on a personal level. There is a ton of death and not-so-accidental dismemberment on display, but the PG-13 rating keeps it distractingly bloodless throughout. At 94 minutes, its pretty darn lean and certainly never boring. Its everything an 11-year-old boy can ask for. Sigh. Too bad I'm not an 11-year-old boy anymore.

 

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