JOEY is another innocuous family film from Down Under in which adorable animals are hunted by crazed poachers and need to be rescued by wide-eyed young kids, who teach adults a thing or two in the process.
Young Billy MacGregor (Jamie Croft) lives on a farm in Australia with his widowed mom Penny (Rebecca Gibney), where he plays with a group of kangaroos, especially a baby called Joey. Unfortunately, the kangaroos congregate on the farm of Billy's animal-hating neighbor Dixon (Errol O'Neill), and he
brings in a hunter known as the Kanga Catcher (Harold Hopkins) to remove the roos, which are drugged and taken to Sydney. Joey escapes and is rescued by Billy, and the two of them venture into the city to find Joey's parents. Eventually, Billy hooks up with a young girl named Linda (Alex McKenna),
the daughter of the new US ambassador Ted Ross (Ed Begley Jr.), who's also looking for some kangaroos. They discover that the kangaroos have been taken to an abandoned park called Kangaroo Kingdom, where the Kanga Catcher is organizing illegal human-kangaroo boxing matches.
Billy and Linda go to her father for help, but he doesn't believe them and accuses Billy of kidnapping Linda. The kids run away and meet a rich old lady named Sylvia (Ruth Cracknell) who runs an animal rescue service. Along with a TV reporter friend of Sylvia's, they all sneak into Kangaroo
Kingdom during a fight and Billy uses a remote-controlled car with a built-in hidden camera to broadcast video of the illegal match on television. The Kanga Catcher is arrested and Joey is reunited with his parents. Back on Billy's farm, Linda and Billy play with the kangaroos while Linda's father
gets friendly with Billy's mother.
JOEY contains all the ingredients of the modern family film, including a kindly single parent who's oblivious to her child's misadventures, cuddly animals endangered by caricatured villains, and a journey into the big, bad city, which is contrasted with the wholesome and idealized countryside.
Thankfully, the film has refrained from the popular practice of putting human voices into the mouths of the animals, and kids will get a kick out of the well-shot footage of the kangaroos, as well as an amusing slapstick sequence where Billy's dog chases Joey through the kitchen and destroys an
apple pie, a blender, and a dishwasher. However, the filmmakers seem confused as to what age group they're trying to appeal to and have gone overboard with the depiction of the menacing city, replete with street gangs and threatening characters on every corner, as well as an excessively
frightening portrayal of the Kanga Catcher and the boxing matches. Dressed in a long black-leather coat and hat, and brandishing a whip and a rifle, Kanga is always filmed from below and looks like a killer from a Spaghetti Western, while the vicious gladiator-like boxer who fights the kangaroos
appears to have been left over from one of the old "Mad Max" movies. Tilted camera angles and distorted lenses, along with a hyperactive score and aggressive sound effects only add to the cartoonish exaggeration, which tends to swamp the film's worthy animal-rights message; but unfortunately, that
style seems to be de rigueur for today's so-called family films, which emphasize noise and frenzied action over warmth and gentleness. (Violence.)
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- Released: 1997
- Rating: PG
- Review: JOEY is another innocuous family film from Down Under in which adorable animals are hunted by crazed poachers and need to be rescued by wide-eyed young kids, who teach adults a thing or two in the process. Young Billy MacGregor (Jamie Croft) lives on a fa… (more)