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Published: Friday, March 29, 2013, 12:01 a.m.

'The Rock,' Tatum a little lost amid 'G.I. Joe' lunacy

  • Channing Tatum (left) and Dwayne Johnson star in a "cascade of lunatic events," according to critic Robert Horton, in "G.I. Joe: Retaliation."

    Jaimie Trueblood / Paramount Pictures

    Channing Tatum (left) and Dwayne Johnson star in a "cascade of lunatic events," according to critic Robert Horton, in "G.I. Joe: Retaliation."

  • Jaimie Trueblood / Paramount Pictures 
Byung-Hun Lee might be wielding a magical sword n a scene from "G.I. Joe: Retaliation."

    Jaimie Trueblood / Paramount Pictures Byung-Hun Lee might be wielding a magical sword n a scene from "G.I. Joe: Retaliation."

Right about the time they drag out Gen. George Patton's pearl-handled revolver, you realize (if you hadn't already) that the operating procedure for "G.I. Joe: Retaliation" is simple: Throw absolutely every single thing at the screen you can think of, and do it fast.
It turns out Patton's revolver is the smallest piece of weaponry seen in the film. There are many large guns, vehicles and possibly a magic sword or two (yes, there's ninja action along the way), making for a loud and overbearing experience.
The toy soldiers -- don't you dare call them dolls -- hatched by Hasbro in the 1960s and immortalized in comic books came to the blockbuster screen in 2009's "G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra," a movie featuring then-rising star Channing Tatum. Having now risen enough to be above this kind of movie, the leading man of "Magic Mike" and "21 Jump Street" lends his presence here for a while and then hands things off to his co-star.
His co-star is Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson. He is not above this kind of movie. The Rock plays Roadblock, who teams with some returning members of the G.I. Joe squad from the first film and a cadre of newcomers (notably Adrianne Palicki and D.J. Cotrona).
Their mission? Actually I'm not sure what the mission is, except at some point they realize that the U.S. president (Jonathan Pryce) is not the man elected to the job but a perfect duplicate.
Pryce, who carries the beaming aura of a man collecting a large payday, gets the movie's best one-liners, and there are a few good ones.
The film's cascade of lunatic events includes an appearance by a mystical trainer (I think that's what he is) played by hip-hop guru RZA, a face-off with the world's nuclear powers during which everybody activates their respective nuke arsenals, and a pretty good fight across mountaintops involving zip-lines and swords.
Also, halfway through, Bruce Willis shows up. Given Willis' history with these things, you'd be surprised if he didn't show up halfway through.
Director John M. Chu, who did a couple of the "Step Up" pictures, has the ability to bring a scene to life, even under circumstances as challenging as this. Some of the military action is passable, although the 3-D makes it tough to track what's happening in the faster-cut scenes.
There's lots of hardware, and it is relentless. On that score, the movie trumps "Battleship," but falls short of the gold standard offered by "Transformers: Dark of the Moon."
"G.I. Joe: Retaliation" has the advantage of sheer craziness, which lends a certain what-will-they-try-next? appeal while you're watching it.
There's a stab at setting up another sequel, and some of the villains remain unaccounted for, but the follow-up will depend on the box-office -- and whether Channing Tatum was actually the draw all along.

"G.I. Joe: Retaliation" 1 and 1/2 stars
Sequel to 2009's "G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra," this time adding Dwayne Johnson to the militarized mix. This one gets by with a certain lunatic appeal, although much of the 3-D action is difficult to track, and the whole thing is swamped by weaponry very quickly. Channing Tatum is around for a while, and so is Bruce Willis.
Rated: PG-13 for violence.
Showing: Alderwood Mall, Cinebarre, Everett Stadium, Galaxy Monroe, Marysville, Stanwood, Pacific Place, Sundance, Thornton Place, Woodinville, Blue Fox, Cascade Mall.
Story tags » Movies

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