“Made by Hasbro” might be a great selling point for a children’s toy, but it’s a giant red flag when it’s slapped on a movie.
“G.I. Joe: Retaliation,” for instance.
The first big-screen Joe movie — 2009’s “G.I. Joe: The Rise of the Cobra” — was at least able to boast that it was better than “The Transformers.” “Retaliation” can’t even make that modest claim.
Cardboard cutout characters and a dopey story line prove to be too deadly a combination.
Conceivably, “Retaliation” could have been campy good fun, but as directed by Jon Chu (“Justin Bieber: Never Say Never”), the film tries to play the ridiculousness completely straight. The only laughs are of the unintentional variety (for instance, whenever the American president makes a dramatic public statement about the “Joes”).
The movie doesn’t lack for familiar faces. Channing Tatum returns as Duke, leader of the elite G.I. Joe commando force. Duane “The Rock” Johnson is the determined and muscle-bound second in command, Roadblock, who gets to spout the most ham-handed dialogue of the group. Even Bruce Willis cashes a paycheck for a tiny role as the Joes’ namesake, Gen. Joe Colton.
The story itself involves the G.I. Joes facing betrayal and the world facing nuclear destruction, thanks to a criminal mastermind masquerading as the U.S. president (Jonathan Pryce in a cheesy dual role). Our heroes have to save the world and clear their good name at the same time.
Essentially, though, the film is just a series of action-set pieces involving characters with silly comic-book names (Snake Eyes, Storm Shadow, Lady Jaye, Jinx, Firefly, etc.).
That doesn’t mean that it still can’t be fun, but other than an imaginative mountaintop martial-arts battle with zip lines, the action scenes are mostly humdrum.