Thursday, April 19, 2001
Paul Hogan should stick with doing commercials. When inviting us for "shrimp on the barbie," we want to book the next flight to hang with him in Australia. Only he can make driving a Subaru station wagon seem adventurous.
His career writing and starring in films is a sorrier enterprise. His genial onscreen demeanor transfers nicely to the big screen, but his movies like "Lightning Jack" have been so lifeless and stale that his considerable laconic charm can't overcome them. His latest movie "Crocodile Dundee in Los Angeles," an intended return to form, is an exercise in diminishing returns. Essentially rehashing the first "Crocodile Dundee" movie without adding anything new to the mix, it's about as appetizing as month-old leftovers from the Outback Steakhouse.
Fifteen years after the first flick hit the screens, Hogan returns as an older and somewhat saddened fellow. Back from New York to his home in Walkabout Creek in Queensland, Mick Dundee now finds crock hunting to be just as dangerous but not as rewarding. The beasts (or lame imitations of them) can outsmart him and dine on his boat, and hunting them now commands the same respect a dog catcher does here.
When his Big Apple sweetheart Sue Charleton (played by Hogan's wife and "Crocodile Dundee" co-star Linda Kozlowski) is asked to run her father's newspaper in Los Angeles, Mick welcomes the change of scenery and the chance to educate their son Mikey (newcomer Serge Cockburn) about the outside world.
Needless to say, Mick's arrival in Los Angeles proves a bit awkward. The Jacuzzi in Sue's house proves to be as unwieldy as a croc, and talking with the locals becomes a bit challenging. He's not sure what to make of their obsession with coffee enemas or the fact that some limo drivers are happy to hand out 8-inch by 10-inch pictures of themselves.
Hogan and his credited co-screenwriters Matthew Berry and Eric Abrams really don't capitalize on the fish-out-of-water potential of the script. Placing the straightforward, upright Mick Dundee in a city that specializes on illusion could be promising. Instead, the new installment apes the first film but has none of the inspiration. There was something undeniably funny at watching the friendly Dundee greeting aloof, preoccupied New Yorkers in 1986. It's not as amusing to see him repeat those gags in the new environment. The jokes from the first film (like his struggles with modern bathroom appliances, his bushman's ability to thwart muggers and the corny gags about gays) are tweaked to considerably lesser effect.
The writers hint at other areas that could have been fruitful. For example, how about spending more time contrasting Sue's vigorous return to investigative journalism while Mick languishes in front of the TV?
Instead the movie is an excuse for a couple of lame cameos. It's not much fun to watch Mike Tyson and George Hamilton embarrass themselves. The father-son dynamic is never really explored. There's zero chemistry between Hogan and Cockburn, and the lad does little more than admire his dad's ability to subdue animals with a calming glance.
It also doesn't help that the new story line involves an anemic detective angle where Mick and Sue try to investigate why a failing movie studio is still cranking out their lame action films despite negative profits. The mystery can be figured out in a couple of minutes and saddles "The Sopranos" star Aida Turturro with a thanklessly bland role as Sue's assistant. You almost wonder if the same situation applies to the folks making "Crocodile Dundee in Los Angeles" because the demand seems minute after all these years.
Unless you are terminally addicted to Hogan's likable drawl, you're better off renting the first movie to discover its appeal. Those wanting to see a far more entertaining film loaded with Australian accents should wait until next week when director Rob Sitch's "The Dish" finally makes it to local screens.