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Article on the "original" cut of Kangaroo Jack(It wasn't meant to be a kids movie)

Old 01-28-03, 04:01 PM
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Article on the "original" cut of Kangaroo Jack(It wasn't meant to be a kids movie)

Very interesting stuff indeed.

From the L.A. times.

January 28, 2003 E-mail story Print


THE BIG PICTURE
How 'Jack' hopped away with a PG rating



By PATRICK GOLDSTEIN


If there's one thing critics have agreed on this year, it's that "Kangaroo Jack" -- made by Castle Rock and distributed by Warner Bros. -- is a forgettable movie. Although the movie has made $35 million over the last 10 days, reviewers have dismissed the film as a "witless escapade" and "a numskull comedy," with one depressed scribe saying that it "left me wanting to kill myself."

The critics agree on another point: The PG-rated comedy, which revolves around two bumbling crooks trying to retrieve $50,000 in mob money from a kangaroo in the Australian Outback, is profoundly unsuitable for young kids. The Jerry Bruckheimer-produced movie includes a scene in which heat-dazed crooks Jerry O'Connell and Anthony Anderson spot supermodel Estella Warren, playing a wildlife conservationist, standing before them. As the Washington Post's Desson Howe describes it, "Thinking she's a mirage, [O'Connell] clamps both his hands on her breasts and declares, 'Hey, these feel so real!' " There's also a testicle joke, a wet tank-top scene with Warren under a waterfall, a chase sequence with shotgun fire and a scene where a villain puts a knife at O'Connell's throat and snarls, "I'm going to carve you up piece by piece."

Would it come as a shock if I told this you this movie has been advertised every morning on Nickelodeon, the Cartoon Network and other children's TV outlets?

Many parents have written in to ask: How on earth did this film get a PG rating? And why do Warner Bros.' TV spots sell it as a cute-talking kangaroo movie, when the kangaroo talks in only one scene? Having seen the movie, I'm with them. "I was really upset by the violence and sexual innuendo," said one mother who took her 7-year-old daughter to see the film. "I'd read a bad review, but it didn't say there was anything offensive in the film, and the commercials were running on Nick Jr., so I thought it must be a family film."

Peter Greene, a media-savvy parent with a son approaching his seventh birthday, complained via e-mail: "What upsets me here is that Castle Rock (one of whose partners just happens to be Rob Reiner), Jerry Bruckheimer and Warner Bros. Pictures all worked together to make sure the film received a PG rating, knowing it was the only so-called family film released over the holiday weekend. We all know if it was rated PG-13 it wouldn't have done as well at the box office. The person I am most disappointed in is Rob Reiner, who is a champion of many kids' causes."

Reiner, who spearheaded the 1998 campaign to pass Proposition 10, which funds early childhood development programs, didn't respond to my interview request, leaving it to a spokesman to explain that he had nothing to do with the making of the film.

However, Greene's complaint about the rating is right on the money. The PG rating, which has been assigned to such films as "Shrek," "Stuart Little" and "Spy Kids," supposedly offers a clear signal to parents that they can safely take their kids to a movie without subjecting them to sex, violence or gross humor.

As Bruckheimer acknowledged: "We had to get that rating. The PG was incredibly important."



To understand how a movie with an actress who ranked No. 1 on Maxim's Hot Babe List ended up being advertised on "SpongeBob," we need to retrace the fascinating history of "Kangaroo Jack."

The film was the brainchild of "Con Air" screenwriter Scott Rosenberg and "Missing in Action" co-creator Steve Bing, who is best known, alas, for getting his girlfriend, Elizabeth Hurley, pregnant. As Rosenberg recalls, "We were drinking in a bar when Steve told me the story as if it had really happened to these two guys and I said, 'That's the greatest idea in the world. Let's sell it.' It ended up being the highest-selling comedy pitch ever." Originally titled "Down and Under," the script was designed as a cool "Midnight Run"-style mob comedy, with plenty of thrills and sexy action for its teenage core audience. The kangaroo was a minor character.

Bruckheimer, who is Disney Studios' top producer, outbid a host of rivals. "I loved the idea," he recalls. "It was interesting, clever and I hadn't seen a film with a kangaroo in years." There was just one glitch. Then-Disney studio chief Joe Roth, believing mob comedies were passé, passed on the project. So Bruckheimer took it to Castle Rock, which had initially bid on the pitch. As he does on most of his films, Bruckheimer brought in scores of writers to punch up the script. Participants included such well-known comedy hands as Lowell Ganz and Babaloo Mandell, the Farrelly Brothers, Gary Ross and Max Frye.

The film was shot in early 2001 in Australia. In keeping with its slick action tone, Bruckheimer hired director David McNally, who'd made "Coyote Ugly," a Bruckheimer movie about an aspiring songwriter who lands a job as a dancing sex kitten in a nightclub. When the film was initially cut together, it was obvious that the kangaroo footage, using a mechanically operated animatronic kangaroo, didn't work. Neither did the film. However, looking at the early test screening results, Bruckheimer saw a ray of hope. There was one character that younger kids loved -- the kangaroo.

When the producer went to a test screening of the film last January with Warner Bros. Chairman Alan Horn, he saw posters everywhere for a new Disney film, "Snow Dogs." Rated PG and aimed at kids, "Snow Dogs" was an instant hit, buoyed by a TV ad campaign that led audiences to believe that the dogs talked, which they did in only one brief scene.

Voilà! "I told Alan, 'Let's make the kangaroo talk,' " Bruckheimer recalls. "We did a dream sequence where he raps, we changed the title to 'Kangaroo Jack' and we made it much more kid-friendly all around." Suddenly a hip mob comedy was an adorable kangaroo picture. Warner Bros. ended up spending an extra $10 million to shoot additional footage and replace its animatronic kangaroos with computer-generated kangaroo characters. Not every studio would've been willing to risk throwing good money after bad, but Warner Bros. was betting on Bruckheimer's commercial instincts and was eager to keep him happy, since his Warner Bros.-produced TV show, "CSI," is a huge moneymaker for the studio.

Last summer, after the computer effects were completed, Warner Bros. had a new "Kangaroo Jack" test screening. "It went through the roof," Bruckheimer says. "It was the biggest change in test screening numbers in Warners history." When the studio submitted the film to the MPAA for a PG rating, it was initially rejected. So Bruckheimer cut out more footage, largely sequences with objectionable language or sexual innuendo. When the film was resubmitted, it got its vital PG rating, even though the testicle joke and breast grope remained. I asked the MPAA to explain its decision but, as always, the ultra-secretive organization refused to discuss any specific ratings. In fact, Bruckheimer says that when parents at another screening objected to a couple of mildly vulgar words like "ass," he cut them out of the picture, "even though the MPAA hadn't asked us to."

In keeping with the "Snow Dogs" model, Warners put the film's kid-friendly kangaroo front and center in its ads, releasing the film on Jan. 17, the same date that "Snow Dogs" opened last year. Asked if it wasn't misleading to run TV spots with a talking kangaroo when the kangaroo barely talks in the actual film, Warner Bros. marketing chief Dawn Taubin explained: "There's clearly a lot of kangaroo in the movie. And our exit polls indicated very strongly that a large percentage of the audience were highly satisfied with the movie."

That's small comfort for the parents I heard from who felt deceived. So whom should we be most upset with? Warners hardly broke new ground in misleading moviegoers: Given a lemon, nearly every studio will do whatever it takes to make lemonade. Still, it's important to remember that at the time of the Senate Commerce Committee's hearings on Hollywood marketing practices, Warner Bros. said it was voluntarily enacting even stricter marketing prohibitions, with Horn telling The Times: "I am a father of two young children ... and there are some lines I won't cross in the pursuit of dollar bills."

The real villain here is the Jack Valenti-controlled MPAA. Its "Kangaroo Jack" ruling is another nail in the coffin for a ratings board that has shown itself to be wildly out of touch with parental standards and totally capricious in its judgments, having given an R rating, for example, to "Billy Elliot," preventing scores of kids from seeing a truly inspirational movie.

The ratings system, which started out as a cunning gambit to protect the movie business from religious crusaders, has turned into a charade that will surely embolden a headline-hunting politician to attack the industry for its cynical hypocrisy. The "Kangaroo Jack" episode might serve as a juicy target. It's time for Hollywood to screw up the courage and reform the ratings game before its moguls have to go back to Washington and do it while squirming in the spotlight.
Old 01-28-03, 04:09 PM
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Re: Article on the "original" cut of Kangaroo Jack(It wasn't meant to be a kids movie)

Originally posted by Seantn
From the L.A. times...

It's time for Hollywood to screw up the courage and reform the ratings game before its moguls have to go back to Washington and do it while squirming in the spotlight.
Or perhaps it's time for parents to remember that PG stands for Parental Guidance and start researching films before they blindly walk their kids into any movie that doesn't have an R rating.
Old 01-28-03, 04:25 PM
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Maybe the parents shouldn't of wasted their money on such a shitty movie, regardless of what it was rated.
Old 01-28-03, 04:31 PM
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Re: Article on the "original" cut of Kangaroo Jack(It wasn't meant to be a kids movie)

Originally posted by Seantn
To understand how a movie with an actress who ranked No. 1 on Maxim's Hot Babe List ended up being advertised on "SpongeBob,"
So, childrens' movies can only have ugly people?
Old 01-28-03, 04:50 PM
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I had a feeling the idea for this movie came up when the creators were drunk in a bar.

Aside from that, I think it's safe for people to assume that if a movie is advertised during a certain television program, that movie is being marketed towards that demographic that the TV show appeals to. And to accuse people taking their kids to the movie blindly is obviously wrong, since it is clearly explained in the article that these parents complaing DID research the movie first and saw nothing that would make them think the movie wasn't kid friendly. Instead of complaing about parents, how about the bung holes at Warner Brothers who can't market movies? I think they were trying to recoup their ten million extra that went into the project by having the movie marketed to kids. Warner is totally wrong in this situation.
Old 01-28-03, 05:24 PM
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I think most parents have simply forgotten what a PG movie means: plenty of lattitude for violence and sexual innuendo, so long as nothing is graphic.

This is why the PG-13 rating was ultimately a bad idea. PG movies have become relatively rare, so people are starting to think G and PG are the same thing.

(It's interesting to note that nobody complained about AOTC being rated PG, even though it's non-stop "sci fi violence" and climaxes with a child contemplating his father's severed--but discretely covered--head. But heaven forbid you should put in a testicle joke or a wet t-shirt!)
Old 01-28-03, 05:53 PM
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Originally posted by Inverse

This is why the PG-13 rating was ultimately a bad idea. PG movies have become relatively rare, so people are starting to think G and PG are the same thing.

Thinking back, I remember when a PG film could contain nudity as long as it wasn't in a sexual situation. It's strange how the ratings morph into meaning different things.

Great article.

I have to laugh about one thing. If Hollywood sees there is a lot of money in talking animal films, WHY DON'T THEY MAKE ONE. All this "the animal talks in one scene and it's a dream sequence and the rest of the time it doesn't talk so people feel riped off" is so stupid. Just make a talking animal movie already, apparently it's what people want.
Old 01-28-03, 06:36 PM
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Well, I think it's refreshing to see anything NOT rated PG-13 these days. On the other hand, taking a page from 'the guide to advertising Snow Dogs' is pretty pitiful.
Old 01-28-03, 06:45 PM
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Hopefully we will get a deluxe two disc set of Kangaroo Jack explaining the background info. and containing the original version of the flick!








Old 01-28-03, 07:28 PM
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Originally posted by Inverse
I think most parents have simply forgotten what a PG movie means: plenty of lattitude for violence and sexual innuendo, so long as nothing is graphic.

This is why the PG-13 rating was ultimately a bad idea. PG movies have become relatively rare, so people are starting to think G and PG are the same thing.

(It's interesting to note that nobody complained about AOTC being rated PG, even though it's non-stop "sci fi violence" and climaxes with a child contemplating his father's severed--but discretely covered--head. But heaven forbid you should put in a testicle joke or a wet t-shirt!)
Even "E.T" had mild PG language: a couple of "sh*ts", the famous line: "penisbreath", and a "douchebag" comment. I even remember reading that the producers of "Chariots of Fire" freaked that they were getting to get a G rating so they added an expletive to get a PG rating.
Old 01-28-03, 08:56 PM
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Originally posted by Giles
Even "E.T" had mild PG language: a couple of "sh*ts", the famous line: "penisbreath", and a "douchebag" comment. I even remember reading that the producers of "Chariots of Fire" freaked that they were getting to get a G rating so they added an expletive to get a PG rating.
The comparison isn't fair, since there was no PG-13 rating in 1982. Something like Jaws or Ghostbusters gets released today, and it's getting a PG-13, most likely.
Old 01-28-03, 09:05 PM
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Re: Re: Article on the "original" cut of Kangaroo Jack(It wasn't meant to be a kids movie)

Originally posted by Caoimhin
Or perhaps it's time for parents to remember that PG stands for Parental Guidance and start researching films before they blindly walk their kids into any movie that doesn't have an R rating.
Old 01-28-03, 09:18 PM
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Originally posted by Pants
Just make a talking animal movie already, apparently it's what people want.
Quick - bring back FRANCIS, THE TALKING MULE - actually, I wish that series of movies would show up on DVD - it would be great to see them all again!
Old 01-28-03, 10:48 PM
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Bruckheimer, who is Disney Studios' top producer, outbid a host of rivals. "I loved the idea," he recalls. "It was interesting, clever and I hadn't seen a film with a kangaroo in years."
This man is a genius.
Old 01-29-03, 02:47 AM
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This line kills me

"I'd read a bad review, but it didn't say there was anything offensive in the film, and the commercials were running on Nick Jr., so I thought it must be a family film."
Old 01-29-03, 04:16 AM
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(It's interesting to note that nobody complained about AOTC being rated PG, even though it's non-stop "sci fi violence" and climaxes with a child contemplating his father's severed--but discretely covered--head. But heaven forbid you should put in a testicle joke or a wet t-shirt!)
And I didn't take my kids to go see AOTC either. The only movies that I'll take my kids to without viewing them beforehand are Pixar flicks and the Veggie Tales movie. I even waited to show Shrek to my kids till it came out on DVD.

My kids wouldn't understand a sex joke. But they sure would understand violence. I don't let my kids watch either.
Old 01-29-03, 08:57 AM
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Originally posted by calhoun07
I had a feeling the idea for this movie came up when the creators were drunk in a bar.

Aside from that, I think it's safe for people to assume that if a movie is advertised during a certain television program, that movie is being marketed towards that demographic that the TV show appeals to. And to accuse people taking their kids to the movie blindly is obviously wrong, since it is clearly explained in the article that these parents complaing DID research the movie first and saw nothing that would make them think the movie wasn't kid friendly. Instead of complaing about parents, how about the bung holes at Warner Brothers who can't market movies? I think they were trying to recoup their ten million extra that went into the project by having the movie marketed to kids. Warner is totally wrong in this situation.
But how many sites are out there today that offer the kind of information these parents would have needed? Even if these parents aren't especially computer-savvy and wouldn't already know where to look, the PG rating should have given them cause to believe that there was something potentially offensive in the movie. They had every opportunity to dig a little deeper and they didn't. From what I read, their research consisted of reading a review, which hardly constitutes looking into offensive elements of a movie in all cases. That's not what reviews are for. If they were bothered, they can ask for their money back, but their complaints are unfounded whining if they fail to understand the very definitions of the ratings employed.

Caveat emptor.
Old 01-29-03, 09:12 AM
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Anyone who knowingly goes to a BRUCKHEIMER "film" deserves what they get.
Old 01-29-03, 05:16 PM
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Originally posted by Caoimhin
But how many sites are out there today that offer the kind of information these parents would have needed? Even if these parents aren't especially computer-savvy and wouldn't already know where to look, the PG rating should have given them cause to believe that there was something potentially offensive in the movie. They had every opportunity to dig a little deeper and they didn't. From what I read, their research consisted of reading a review, which hardly constitutes looking into offensive elements of a movie in all cases. That's not what reviews are for. If they were bothered, they can ask for their money back, but their complaints are unfounded whining if they fail to understand the very definitions of the ratings employed.

Caveat emptor.
Well, to also be fair, this movie wasn't a kid's movie at first. The studio decided to market it towards kids and put more of the kangaroo in the movie to make it more kid friendly, but it didn't start out that way. I think it's entirely different when you have a kid's movie from the get go and they put jokes in there that the adults will get that go right over a kid's head (and actually, I haven't seen KJ-and never will-but I have to wonder how many of the offensive jokes went over the kids heads anyway?) and a movie that is intended for adults then it is recut and marketed towards the Nick Jr. crowd.

And I stand by my assertion that studios should be more responsible in marketing movies. Don't market it towards a Nick Jr. crowd if it isn't on the same level of what is in the Nick Jr. demographic. Gee, asking studios to be responsible and to stop misleading people....wow, whotta concept.
Old 01-30-03, 01:09 AM
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Re: Re: Article on the "original" cut of Kangaroo Jack(It wasn't meant to be a kids movie)

Originally posted by Caoimhin
Or perhaps it's time for parents to remember that PG stands for Parental Guidance and start researching films before they blindly walk their kids into any movie that doesn't have an R rating.

Oh yeah...parents have nothing better to do than to sit a computer and view movie/dvd sites. God knows there are hours of the week that can be set aside for this.
Old 01-30-03, 09:54 AM
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Re: Re: Re: Article on the "original" cut of Kangaroo Jack(It wasn't meant to be a kids mo

Originally posted by Scot1458
Oh yeah...parents have nothing better to do than to sit a computer and view movie/dvd sites. God knows there are hours of the week that can be set aside for this.
People routinely invest hours in researching items they'll buy for their families in consumer magazines and sites, with physical health and safety in mind. Should their families' and children's moral standards not be worth the same effort?

Plus, in about 60 seconds, I found this on www.mpaa.org:

Kangaroo Jack (2002)
Warner Bros. Pictures An Aol Time Warner Co.
PG
Rated PG for language, crude humor, sensuality and violence.
(my italics)

The same can be viewed on all movie posters and at http://kangaroojack.warnerbros.com/ .

Which part of this wouldn't be clear to a parent? I'm not saying it wasn't marketed especially well, but who's ultimately responsible for people's children?
Old 01-30-03, 10:03 AM
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Re: Re: Re: Re: Article on the "original" cut of Kangaroo Jack(It wasn't meant to be a kid

Originally posted by Caoimhin
but who's ultimately responsible for people's children?
TV and Video Games, duh.
Old 01-30-03, 10:53 AM
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Re: Re: Re: Article on the "original" cut of Kangaroo Jack(It wasn't meant to be a kids mo

Originally posted by Scot1458
Oh yeah...parents have nothing better to do than to sit a computer and view movie/dvd sites. God knows there are hours of the week that can be set aside for this.
It's called parenting. If you can't set aside a few hours a week for your kids why have kids in the first place?
Old 01-30-03, 11:00 AM
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Originally posted by Scot1458
Oh yeah...parents have nothing better to do than to sit a computer and view movie/dvd sites. God knows there are hours of the week that can be set aside for this.
You are being sarcastic, but I would restate exactly what you said with complete seriousness.

Parents SHOULD have nothing better to do than look out for the well-being of their kids. Figuring out the content of a film does not take hours of work. The MPAA web site gives you a pretty decent idea of what is in any film. There are dozens of other web sites that go into even more detail. As a parent, it takes all of 5 minutes to find a good site that you trust, bookmark it, and read about films before going into them blind with a 7-year-old child.


Any movie theater you go to is going to have the film clearly marked as PG (and 99% of the time also have a description of the content -- "crude humor", etc.) To take a kid to see that and then blame others that your kid has now been exposed to breast groping and testicle jokes is pretty irresponsible.
Old 01-30-03, 12:41 PM
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I caught a commercial for this last night, and I don't know if its been mentioned in this thread. One of the quotes from a reviewer said it was a good family film or something along those lines.

I think that is really deceptive on the part of the studio, producers, etc. I agree parents should look into movies, shows, games, etc. before exposing their kids to it, but in this instance plastering its a family film in a commercial for it is horrible.

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