The film was panned by critics, who condemned the acting, directing and writing, especially for a family film. It received a rating of 8% on Rotten Tomatoes and grossed $88.1 million on a $60 million budget. Kangaroo Jack was released on DVD and VHS on June 24, 2003 by Warner Home Video. An animated sequel titled Kangaroo Jack: G'Day U.S.A.! was produced and released on video in 2004.
In 1982 Brooklyn, a boy named Charlie Carbone is about to become the stepson of a mobster named Salvatore Maggio. The mobster's juvenile delinquent apprentice, Frankie Lombardo, tries to drown Charlie, but a boy named Louis Booker saves him and they become best friends.
Twenty years later, in 2002, Charlie now runs his own beauty salon and Louis still remains his best friend, but Sal's henchmen take a majority of the salon's profits, leaving Charlie very little for improvements. After they botch the job of hiding some stolen goods, resulting in the discovery of Sal's warehouse and the arrest of at least one of his men, Sal gives Charlie and Louis one more chance. Under instructions from Frankie, they are to deliver a package to Coober Pedy, Australia to a man named "Mr. Smith". Frankie also tells them not to open the package "under any circumstances" and that should they run into any trouble, to call Mr. Smith by the phone number he gives them. Unknown to Charlie and Louis, however, Sal tells his Capo that he is "canceling their return trip."
On the plane, Louis opens the package, against Frankie's instructions, to find $50,000 in cash. Upon landing in Australia, they rent a Land Cruiser and head to Mr. Smith. On their way, they accidentally hit a red kangaroo. Thinking it is dead, Louis puts his "lucky jacket" on the kangaroo and with Charlie's sunglasses to pose for photographs as a joke, as he thinks the kangaroo looks like "Jackie Legs", one of Sal's henchmen from Canarsie. The kangaroo then regains consciousness and hops away with one problem; the $50,000 was in the jacket. Charlie and Louis get into their car and try to reclaim the money from the jacket on the kangaroo, but the ensuing chase ends with the duo running into a field of termite mounds and crashing into a pile of rocks.
At a pub in Alice Springs, Louis manages to call Mr. Smith and tell him about their situation. Mr. Smith however thinks they stole his package and threatens Louis, telling him that they had better have it when he meets them, or he'll "chop them into snaps and feed them to the crocs"; he then plans to find them himself. Back in New York City, Sal gets the call from Mr. Smith saying that Charlie and Louis haven't arrived yet; Sal then sends Frankie and some men to Australia to investigate.
Meanwhile, another attempt and chase to reclaim the money from the kangaroo strands Charlie and Louis in the desert. They spend many hours wandering in the desert, during which Charlie hallucinates, and they soon meet a woman from the Outback Wildlife Foundation called Jessie, who Louis previously met in Alice Springs. Thinking she is only a mirage, Charlie sexually harasses her and she knocks him out with her canteen. While unconscious, Charlie has a crazy dream involving the kangaroo meeting him and talking to him, while Sal and Louis mock him in kangaroo forms. The following day, the trio then track the kangaroo at the nearby Todd valley and try again to catch it, but Louis botches their attempt after a swarm of ants crawls up his pants. While waiting for the next opportunity to catch the kangaroo, Charlie begins developing feelings for Jessie.
The next day, Mr. Smith and his henchmen arrive and capture the trio. Charlie and Louis outsmart them, only to find Frankie has tracked them and is prepared to kill them. Just as he is about to however, the kangaroo suddenly returns, causing a distraction that allows Charlie, Louis and Jessie to escape on camels. A final chase ensues, with Charlie, Louis and Jessie chasing after the kangaroo while being pursued by Frankie and his goons. Louis manages to retrieve the money from the kangaroo but ends up nearly falling down a cliff and is saved by Charlie. After getting the money back, they learn from Frankie that Sal really sent them to Australia to pay for their own execution at the hands of Mr. Smith. Out of nowhere, police arrive and arrest Frankie, Mr. Smith and their respective henchmen. Charlie and Louis call each other true friends, and Charlie reclaims Louis' lucky jacket from the kangaroo, who hops away with his family.
One year later, Charlie and Jessie are married and selling their new shampoo, having used Sal's $50,000 to start up a line of hair care products (its sign features the kangaroo), while Louis becomes Charlie's advertising partner. Frankie and his men have been imprisoned for life as will Sal, having failed at using his high-level connections to avoid arrest and a trial. As for the kangaroo, now called "Kangaroo Jack", he is still happily hopping around the outback. Kangaroo Jack explains why the film should end with him and closes it with his version of Porky Pig's famous catchphrase: "That's all, bolks!"
- Jerry O'Connell as Charlie Carbone
- Robert Reid as young Charlie Carbone
- Anthony Anderson as Louis Booker
- Shawn Smith as young Louis Booker
- Estella Warren as Jessie
- Michael Shannon as Frankie Lombardo
- Brian Casey as young Frankie Lombardo
- Christopher Walken as Salvatore "Sal" Maggio
- Dyan Cannon as Anna Carbone
- Adam Garcia as Kangaroo "Jackie Leggs" Jack (voice, uncredited)
- Frank Welker as Jack's Vocal Effects (uncredited)
- Marton Csokas as Mr. Smith
- Bill Hunter as Blue
- Tony Nikolakopoulos as Sal's Capo
- David Ngoombujarra as Sr. Sgt. Mr. Jimmy Inkamale, Australian Police
Initially the film's screenplay was titled Down and Under and was described as a mafia comedy in the style of Midnight Run. The film was shot in Australia in August 2001. When the producers saw test footage, they realized that the film as it was cut did not work. Inspired by early test screenings and the marketing campaign behind the recently released Snow Dogs, the production shifted the marketing focus away from that of a mafia comedy movie to that of an animal picture. New footage was shot including replacing the animatronic kangaroo with a new CGI one and getting him to rap and the film was edited to be much more family-friendly.