“Knowing is half the battle,” we’re told in one of many fortune cookie-style dialogue pearls in the merrily moronic G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra. Then, know this: the spirit of brilliantly bad movies lives and breathes in Channing Tatum and Sienna Miller, who set the bar for a pack of titanically terrible performances in this howler from Mummy-meister screenwriter director Stephen Sommer.
The flick is based, of course, on Hasbro’s hugely popular pose-able ultra-butch plastic Hasbro toys that also spawned a line of comic books and a TV cartoon series. What passes for the flick’s plot has something or other to do with lantern-jawed, glassy-eyed “Duke” (Tatum) getting swept up by the elite military unit “G.I. Joe,” conscripted to test super-secret weaponry while stomping around in bondage-style fetish gear that might have been designed by Felippe of Fire Island. Tatum and his comrades in arms Marlon Wayans, Rachel Nichols and Dennis Quaid – call them Four Dolts Named Joe – battle idiotic dialogue, goofy flashbacks and four campy, scenery-chomping villains that include the aforementioned Miller, Byung-hun Lee and the usually terrific Christopher Eccleston and Joseph Gordon Levitt.
Miller’s entrance scene alone is enough to clue us in to the rollicking time we’re in for. The “Baroness” hip-swings her way down the gangway of a super high tech flying machine, sporting tight black leather dominatrix drag, shades, a supposed-to-be-sexy smirk and a black wig she’s apparently been forced to break in before Angelina Jolie dons it for Salt. Miller is a complete kick drawling out femme fatale lines like, “Try this on for size, boys,” with a pouty bad-movie sneer patented by Sharon Stone in the ‘80s.
Then there’s Tatum, who barely registers at all in his big entrance and proceeds to lumber through shirtless training scenes, the collapse of the Eiffel Tower and a chilly, unconvincing love scene with Miller without ever changing his expression. But, hey, why grouse about chiseled, emotion-challenged Tatum in a movie jam-packed with actors yelling ludicrous dialogue in impenetrable Scottish, French and Korean accents? Let alone one that casts gifted Joseph Gordon-Levitt as an arch villain who sounds as dubbed as anyone out of an episode of Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers, the better to growl lines like, “Kill them! Kill all the Joes. Detonate the icepack!” and: “The time has come for the cobra to rise up and reveal itself. You will call me Commander!”
The time has come for us to rise up and declare G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra a wonderfully woeful action orgy that only gets funnier the more serious it tries to get. “Fear,” says one of the characters, is a great motivator.” So, we say, is a big, fat paycheck.
Stephen Rebello, co-creator of the original "Bad Movies We Love" column, book and film marathons, takes aim at jaw-droppingly, dementedly wonderful Hollywood movies that we like to call "So Bad, They’re Brilliant." Next week: The Halle Berry/Bruce Willis techno-howler Perfect Stranger.
Now tell us: What movie do YOU find so bad, it's brilliant?