Frank Masi
Channing Tatum stars as Duke, the team leader of the elite G.I. Joe squad in "G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra."

G.I. JOE: THE RISE OF COBRA — ★1/2 — Channing Tatum, Marlon Wayans, Dennis Quaid; rated PG-13 (violence, profanity, drugs, gore, torture, vulgarity, slurs, nude art); in general release

So, Paramount Pictures officials: This is the movie for which you chose to go to war with movie critics?

The studio refused to show its new action-thriller "G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra" to reviewers, even going to some pretty extreme measures to prevent them from seeing it in time for opening-day reviews.

All of which set off speculation that the movie must be a dud of epic proportions.

And make no mistake about it, this is not an artistic masterpiece. In fact, it's so silly that — perhaps appropriately — the film almost comes across as a live-action cartoon.

But it's not appreciably worse than this summer's terrible "Transformers" sequel. That overlong film was about 30 minutes longer than this dopey nonsense, which is based on yet another action-figure line.

An origin tale, "The Rise of Cobra" sees Gen. Hawk (Dennis Quaid) recruiting some new members to his covert G.I. Joe team. They include NATO soldiers Duke (Channing Tatum) and Ripcord (Marlon Wayans).

Hawk and the Joes use high-tech equipment to fight terrorists — some of whom may be working for or with an industrialist known simply as McCullen (Christopher Eccleston).

His nanomite technology could be destructive and pose a threat to world peace, especially if it's weaponized.

But Duke finds his loyalties divided. One of McCullen's top agents is Baroness (Sienna Miller), who was once our hero's girlfriend.

To be fair, there a couple of fun and exciting moments. Especially when martial artist "brothers" Snake Eyes (Ray Park) and Storm Shadow (Byung hun-Lee) finally have their big showdown.

But the screenplay is filled with laughably awful dialogue — some of it featuring such cartoon rallying cries and catchphrases as "Knowing is half the battle" and "Yo, Joe!"

Director Stephen Sommers also relies too heavily on computer-generated effects that looks too cartoony.

And it doesn't help that his cast is either hopelessly wooden (Tatum, in particular) or so over-the-top that they appear to be playing this for laughs (both Eccleston and Joseph Gordon-Levitt, who plays another recognizable G.I. Joe villain).

"G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra" is rated PG-13 for strong violent action and imagery (gunplay and shootings, combat, sword play and stabbings, vehicular and explosive mayhem, and violence against women and children), scattered strong profanity, drug content (hypodermic needles), some gore and blood, a brief torture scene, some suggestive language, derogatory language and slurs (mostly based on nationality), and glimpses of nude statues. Running time: 118 minutes.