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REVIEW: 'G.I. Joe' like a blast from the cartoon past

‘G.I. Joe: Retaliation'

★★

PG-13

Wide release

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By Roger Moore
Thursday, March 28, 2013, 8:15 p.m.
 

A better-than-average, gravity-defying ninja duel leads to an epic chase — by leaps, swings and ziplines — through the Himalayas in the big set piece sequence of “G.I. Joe: Retaliation.” Masked villains in red ninja suits chase Snake Eyes and Jinx as they attempt to spirit a ninja villain out of a mountaintop lair. It may be the most dazzling bit of business of its kind from the age of digital stunts.

The rest of the movie? Seriously, it's a live-action version of an '80s cartoon that was designed to sell toys. This is “Transformers” without the Bumblebee Camaro, a lot of action, a few one-liners, and a lot of gunplay. And, it was entrusted to the director of the Justin Bieber concert documentary. How good can it be?

But it has Dwayne Johnson, an action hero who knows his way around a raised eyebrow and a catch-phrase. His character, the G.I. Joe-force sergeant known as “Roadblock,” quotes Jay-Z for motivational speeches. He's a father of two who tells his boss (Channing Tatum) that their little “extraction” from Pakistan is so easy that they'll be “home in time for ‘Top Chef.' ” Only, they aren't.

COBRA has an impostor (Jonathan Pryce, playing the real prez and the fake one) in the White House and all manner of evil henchmen and ingenious gadgets to wipe out the G.I. Joes. And that's not even mentioning the ninjas.

It's up to team members Roadblock, Lady Jaye (Adrianne Palicki) and Flint (D.J. Cotrona) — with maybe an assist from masked marvel Snake Eyes (Ray Park) and the fetching fury Jinx (Elodie Yung) to foil evil — the masked COBRA commander and his sidekick, Firefly (Ray Stevenson).

Maybe the Joes can enlist Bruce Willis, who needs to be reminded that John Wayne never played fifth banana in other people's action pictures, even in his dotage.

Things go boom and bodies go down and the 1 hour and 50 minutes zip by like oh, 2 hours and 10.

But, at least there are no jive-talking, joking and pontificating robots.

Just ninjas.

Roger Moore reviews movies for McClatchy-Tribune News Service.

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