Poor Paul Hogan. He never had much of a chance to survive his brief fling with stardom.
For one thing, his only famous character isn’t much of an act. He genuinely is a bit of an Australian bumpkin who happened to land in a world and culture he was wholly unprepared to handle. Since he became Crocodile Dundee, he’s had no idea what to do next. In Hollywood, he’s become one of those hundreds of guests who were invited to the fame party but quickly overstayed their welcome, and now everybody is huddled over by the bar trying to figure out how to get him to leave without making a scene.
While Russell Crowe leads the current Australian invasion and figures to have a bit more staying power, Hogan continues to hang on by his knife-trimmed fingernails. After a decade of promising the world he would never play Crocodile Dundee again, he’s been allowed another turn as Mick, the Australian bumpkin who inexplicably took the world by storm in Crocodile Dundee. He claims he’s only heeding the incessant public demand for a sequel to his 1988 sequel to the $175-million 1986 original hit. In truth, it’s probably his accountants who were creating that demand.
The new film, Crocodile Dundee in Los Angeles, is one of the family-friendliest Hollywood comedies to come along in the last half-decade. There’s scarcely anything here that could even offend my mother, let alone yours. The film’s restrained humor—as well as its art direction, its costuming and its casting—seem unapologetically stuck in the ’80s. While that’s a quaint little curiosity, it also doesn’t absolve a predictable, meandering picture with an overwhelming lack of purpose and far fewer surprises than the back of Crowe’s limo after Oscar night.
The new film’s plot stays along familiar lines. Mick Dundee is living in the outback with his wife Sue (Linda Kozlowski, co-star of the first two films and Hogan’s real-life girl, for whom he dumped his wife of 31 years) and their 10-year-old son Mikey (Serge Cockburn). When a reporter on Sue’s father’s L.A. newspaper is killed, the intrepid family heads for California to find out what happened and to spread the message that you can’t actually get a Bloomin‘ Onion or baby back ribs in the real outback.
They find out the reporter was sniffing around a pair of Hollywood producers who work for a studio that seems to make a ton of money by simply releasing direct-to-video titles like Crocodile Dundee in Cleveland or Crocodile Dundee Spring Break Toga Party. Of course, the studio is a front for a smuggling operation or something, and it’ll take all of Mick’s cunning, mental acuity and skill with big knives to crack the case.
All the lamest croc-out-of-water gags from the first two films are reprised here, with a few twists—Mick walks into a gay bar; Mick puts an animal trap in the dishwashing; Mick does the thing with the knife again. Hogan, who’s now 61 and leathery as all hell, doesn’t seem to have enough energy to do his own stunts or even much acting any more; though the movie’s all about him, he’s surprisingly tame.
It’s hard to shake the ’80s vibe here; the film has the feel of one of those genial, disjointed comedies Hollywood made throughout the Reagan years. With callous cynicism and gross-out humor currently setting our comedic barometer, Hogan is more than out of place; he’s out of his time as well. If you’re looking for a break from cutting-edge comedy, this might be the dumb, lovable film for you. If not, feel free to throw Mick back to the crocs.
Crocodile Dundee in Los Angeles (PG) H1/2. Directed by Simon Wincer. Starring Paul Hogan, Linda Kozlowski and Serge Cockburn.