Kangaroos and clichés? Yep, it's January

Hollywood hops further away from fresh plots with 'A Guy Thing' and 'Jack'

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Reality shows are the rage on TV, but Hollywood clearly thinks bogus is best. I thought the computer-enhanced title character of "Kangaroo Jack" set a new low for unconvincing antics - until I saw the human performances in "A Guy Thing," which make the 'roo seem subtle by comparison.

The bad thing about A Guy Thing isn't the talent of its stars but the warmed-over triteness of the material they're forced to work with.

While recent romantic comedies like "Maid in Manhattan" and "Two Weeks Notice" are far from great, they make some effort to portray flesh-and-blood characters in a real, recognizable world. "A Guy Thing" doesn't even nod in this direction. In place of real romance and comedy, it offers worn-out clichés, by-the-numbers platitudes, and frozen smiles that few in the audience will want to imitate.

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The story opens at a bachelor party - or rather the morning after, when the groom-to-be (Jason Lee) wakes up in bed with a woman (Julia Stiles) whose name he doesn't even know.

This momentary lapse becomes a lasting embarrassment when the stranger turns out to be the bride's favorite cousin.

They get better acquainted as circumstances keep throwing them together, and (surprise) they start to realize they're made for each other. Too bad that pesky wedding is coming up!

The screenplay has a lot of talk about people being "right for each other," and the hero's mom loves her husband because he lets her "be herself."

But these characters are so shallow and generic that they seem downright interchangeable, so it's hard to appreciate anyone's individuality or care who winds up with whom. Nor is it clear why all this is a "guy thing," as opposed to a "girl thing" or a "unisex thing."

At least it's not a "kangaroo thing," which is more than I can say for another laff riot this week. Kangaroo Jack begins in Brooklyn, where a mob boss orders our heroes to deliver a stash of cash to an Australian crony.

Then they hit a kangaroo with their rented car, and one of them puts his jacket on the animal for reasons too stupid to mention, and the revived 'roo hops into the wilderness with their money, and the guys chase after him on flatulent camels, and ... you get the idea.

Australia buffs may enjoy the scenery, but Hollywood is so xenophobic these days that nearly all the characters are American, and you can see more authentic-looking wildlife on "Animal Planet" any time you want. Hop away from this one fast!

'A Guy Thing,' rated PG-13, and 'Kangaroo Jack,' rated PG, both contain sexual humor and vulgarity.

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