Picks and Pans Review: Tank Girl

updated 04/17/1995 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 04/17/1995 AT 01:00 AM EDT

Lori Petty, Malcolm McDowell, Naomi Watts, Jeff Kober, Ice-T

You would have to go back to the Batman TV series to find a comic book-to-screen transposition that is this much no-pretense, flat-out fun.

The plot is never too clearly laid out, but literal-mindedness isn't the point. Playfulness is, so the plot is tabled for such scenes as a flamboyant production number in which the whole cast, mutants included, breaks into Cole Porter's "Let's Do It" in the middle of a futuristic brothel.

This doesn't really disturb the quest of Petty, who has stumbled onto a tank and taken it upon herself to combat a vaguely sinister organization, led by McDowell, that is hoarding water, which has become scarce in 2033. Petty's allies are a group of "Rippers,"—half men, half kangaroos—and Australian actress Watts as a pilot who becomes a sidekick called Jet Girl. The Rippers, who look like fur-and height-impaired Wookies, include Kober, who sounds like an addled surfer dude; Reg Cathey, who resembles Soul Train's Don Cornelius; and rapper Ice-T as the most mundane man-kangaroo in history.

Screenwriter Tedi Sarafian's imagination holds up well as he adapts the comic created by Jamie Hewlett and Alan Martin in 1988. Petty is frisky and ironic enough to carry off her unapologetically cartoonish part. (R)

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