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Tank Girl (Lori Petty) is a helium-voiced, tough-talking, beer-swilling, oddly garbed, flirtatious, fearless, chain-smoking, determinedly individualistic 19-year-old kewpie-doll punker living in the year 2033. The earth, now a desert, is overlorded by the Department of Water and Power, but Tank Girl and her outlaw friends manage to steal enough water (and beer and smokes) to live a party life"until an attack by evil DWP head Kesslee (Malcolm McDowell, whose talent for subtle yet terrifying malevolence are wasted in a cliche role). Escaping a DWP labor camp, Tank Girl hijacks a tank and"with fellow inmate Jet Girl (Naomi Watts) and human/kangaroo hybrids called Rippers (whose supposed deadliness is hardly believable)"embarks on improbable adventures to thwart Kesslee and his minions.

In depicting this future world, the filmmakers have included animation sequences that render Tank Girl as she's seen in the popular underground British comic by Alan Martin and Jamie Hewlett on which the film is based"saving a fortune on sets by merely drawing them. As with most futuristic prognostications, bleakness and oppression prevail; in the end, what doesn't prevail is Tank Girl itself. Though striving to stay true to the Tank Girl persona, the movie concocts a character more two-dimensional than the paper the comic is printed on: Petty has her enthusiasm but not the edge. Petty's performance has fun moments, and both her energy and that of a grunge-rock soundtrack almost prod audiences into getting caught up in it"but not quite. Director Rachel Talalay, whose resume includes Freddy's Dead: The Final Nightmare and producing credits on John Waters' Hairspray and Cry-Baby, here is unable to transcend camp. (For example, a protracted rendition"complete with can-can line"of the Cole Porter song Let's Do It when Tank Girl and crew should have been making their escape goes far out of its way to be weird and wacky.) The film's humor is often juvenile or contrivedly off-kilter. Worst, its attempts to win a Gen-X audience with its spit-at-authority spokesperson are eye-rollingly overt. Tank Girl is all style over substance, and even the style isn't all that mind-blowing.-Christine James

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