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'G.I. Joe: Retaliation' review: An attack on comprehension

 *1/2 (out of four)
 
At least once as kids, we all gave an action figure's head the ol' 360-degree spin. Watching the confusing 3-D sequel "G.I. Joe: Retaliation," you know how that toy felt.
 
I get that a bad guy posing as the president (Jonathan Pryce) sells out the Joes, and before you can say "ghost protocol" the military operation has been discontinued--with survivors Roadblock (Dwayne Johnson), Lady Jaye (Adrienne Palicki) and Flint (D.J. Cotrona, vanilla) left to take back the free world from a guy who says things like, "They call it a waterboard, but they never get bored" and, "They say this is a thankless job, but yesterday I hung out with Bono."
 
Maybe knowing the basics are enough. The film, a needless follow-up to 2009's slightly more fun "G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra," was bumped from last summer's schedule to allegedly beef up the 3-D conversion and supposedly increase screen time for suddenly mega-huge co-star Channing Tatum. Well, without getting too spoilery, let's just say "Retaliation" is barely more of a Channing Tatum movie than "Public Enemies." The effort to elevate the returning cast member's presence doesn't pay off. The movie only excites in that giddy, teenage-moviegoer way during bonkers action sequences, like when ninjas transitioning from a bungee cord to a zipline and battle on the side of a mountain. It reminded me of an international, high-stakes take on Nickelodeon’s "Guts," and that's a plus.
 
Based on the frenzied, incoherent action, director Jon M. Chu ("Justin Bieber: Never Say Never," "Step Up 3D") should stick to choreographing dance numbers. Co-starring Bruce Willis in his typical kinda tired, kinda tough mode, "Retaliation" also offers the usual hand-to-hand, blade-to-blade, bullet-to-ninja-star clashes.
 
Shockingly bad dialogue includes Lady Jaye planning to "cyberblast an encoded beacon" and a top American intelligence official assessing Pakistan as "a riot with a zip code." Really, sir? What is the zip code of Pakistan, off the top of your head?
 
Perhaps a younger viewer in the Hasbro franchise's core demographic can explain the multiple shifts in allegiance by Storm Shadow (Byung-hun Lee), a warrior who actually gets his shirt pulled off during a battle. Or what's up with the blind old wise man played by RZA. Or why Jaye claims to be a Fox News reporter when talking to the president without a camera or tape recorder. (Jokes about Fox news aside.)
 
Compared to the straight-faced, offensive "Olympus Has Fallen," it's easier to shrug off the goofy nuclear weapons talk in "Retaliation." But I'd be lying if I said the film did much to make my pulse race. I was too busy laughing at it.

Watch Matt on “You & Me This Morning,” Friday at 6:55 a.m. on WCIU, the U

mpais@tribune.com

 

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