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Paramount Pictures

Average Joe

Movies | This box office takes all the action out of action figures

Issue: "The ABCs of C Street," Aug. 29, 2009

If anyone needs proof that Hollywood is dumbing down its releases and (worse yet) audiences are responding, look no further than the hit movie G.I. Joe. Launching a proposed franchise based on the Hasbro toys, the film makes even its non-stop action sequences tediously boring.

The plot takes place in the "not too distant future" and follows the team of "Joes" (a covert military force) as they embark on retrieving a deadly weapon while indoctrinating a couple of hotshot new recruits. For the record, there is such a thing as a sci-fi action movie that's both exhilarating and complex (see The Terminator or The Matrix), but G.I. Joe arrives as a muddled collage of thin ideas with neither an exciting action sequence nor a thought-provoking moment to be found.

Steeped in Egyptian pyramid hideouts, villainous polar ice cap lairs, and ripped leather cat suits, G.I. Joe (PG-13) clearly wants to be a superhero movie. Batman and Iron Man have proved that a good comic book tale can develop conflicted characters whose plights speak to the human condition with witty pathos. Not so with Joe, which develops its thinly clichéd characters and predictable story lazily and without joy. Everyone fights in G.I. Joe: men, women, and children. And they fight everywhere: on the ground, in the air, in the water. But it's all a blur of explosions, bodies, and bad writing.

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According to my brother (an avid childhood consumer of the toys), the original appeal of the action figures was their realism-weapons, equipment, vehicles all modeled after actual military-issue gear. But reality is a distant dream in the world of G.I. Joe. The vaguely futuristic setting seems designed simply to display fantastical weaponry and holographic communication. Jumping through countries and across time, the film repeatedly exhausts itself. But it's a fruitless exhaustion that never arrives anywhere to any purpose.

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