“G.I. Joe: Retaliation” is a movie based on kids’ toys, and on the cartoons and comic books churned out to sell them. It stars Dwayne Johnson as a fightin’ man named Roadblock, and has Channing Tatum and Bruce Willis playing soldier, too (not for nearly as much screen time as the ads would suggest, but still). It’s the sequel to 2009’s “G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra,” remembered (vaguely?) for a splashy effects shot of the Eiffel Tower toppling. Not the sort of pedigree that makes us expect “Zero Dark Thirty-One,” but at least we can count on some 3-D fireworks to help us choke down the nonsensical geopolitics.
Or not. Director Jon M. Chu (“Step Up 3D,” “Justin Bieber: Never Say Never”), whose prior credits somehow screamed “action choreography!” to producers, manages to make dull work of all the pop combat. One of the few things giving the movie a spark, ironically, is the fun being had by a slumming Jonathan Pryce as the president’s nanotechnologically disguised, evil-doppelganger replacement. He’s a poor man’s Merkin Muffley gone bad, and he’s even got James Carville fooled. Sample loopiness: “They call it a waterboard — but I never get bored!”