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"CROCODILE DUNDEE IN LOS ANGELES"
(2001) (Paul Hogan, Linda Kozlowski) (PG)

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QUICK TAKE:
Comedy/Action: A legendary Australian crocodile hunter moves to Los Angeles where he uncovers a criminal ring while trying to become accustomed to the trappings of Hollywood.
PLOT:
Mick Dundee (PAUL HOGAN) is a famed crocodile hunter in Walkabout, Australia who lives there with his girlfriend, Sue Charleton (LINDA KOZLOWSKI), and their son, Mikey (SERGE COCKBURN). When Sue gets a request from her newspaper publisher father to temporarily fill in for the Los Angeles bureau chief who died in a mysterious car accident, the family agrees to move to Los Angeles for a change of pace.

There, and working with fellow Newsday employee Jean Ferraro (AIDA TURTURRO), Sue reopens an investigatory story about Arnan Rothman (JERE BURNS) and his small movie studio that keeps churning out movies despite them being box office duds. Meanwhile, Mick and Mikey take in the sights as tourists and try to deal with the cultural differences they encounter.

To assist Sue and her investigation, Mick decides to get a job on the movie set and thus becomes an extra where he gets help from actor Diego Gonzalez (PAUL RODRIGUEZ). With fellow Aussie croc hunter Jacko (ALEC WILSON) watching over Mikey and falling for his elementary school teacher, Dorothy Mathis (KAITLIN HOPKINS), Mick starts nosing around the studio. After eventually spotting Rothman's henchman Milos Drubnik (JONATHAN BANKS) involved in some suspicious behavior, it's up to the croc hunter to figure out what they're doing and then save the day.

OUR TAKE: 4 out of 10
The crocodile is a perfect killing machine that has used millions of years of evolution to get its various elements perfectly in place to do its job. Once nearly hunted to extinction, the large reptile, like its alligator brethren, has now made a spectacularly successful and remarkable comeback.

Crocodile Dundee, on the other hand, has been around for a much shorter amount of time and his fifteen years of evolution have not been as kind. Now a bit longer in the tooth and lacking the strong comedic bite he once possessed, the character has made his own comeback after being absent from the big screen for more than a decade and presumed extinct by many. Yet, his return is decidedly less noteworthy or successful than with his reptilian counterpart, and it doesn't seem likely that he'll devour as much of the domestic or worldwide box office as he once did.

Yes, I'm referring to the character and movie that actor Paul Hogan introduced to the world back in 1986 where an American reporter traveled to the Outback to do a story on a legendary croc hunter that she then brought back to Manhattan. A classic, dual mode fish out of water story, the film had some funny moments, loads of charm to spare, and became a surprise hit among critics and moviegoers alike (it also earned an Oscar nomination for Best Original Screenplay).

It led to the inevitable 1988 sequel that essentially retreaded the original's basic formula and also made its fair share of box office loot. Perhaps wanting to avoid being typecast forever as Dundee, however, Hogan decided to retire the character in favor of other roles. Unfortunately, various efforts such as "Lightning Jack" and "Almost an Angel" weren't nearly as successful as the Crocodile Hunter.

Now, with the Summer 2000 Olympics at least partly warm in viewer's minds and Steve Irwin's "Crocodile Hunter" being a crossover success from Animal Planet to NBC, Hogan and company have decided to resurrect the character and basic plot for "The New Adventures of Crocodile Dundee," a.k.a. "Crocodile Dundee in Los Angeles."

With the New York element pretty much run dry from the first two films, the filmmakers have decided to go the "Beverly Hillbillies" route and take the amiable but resourceful man to Beverly, Hills that is, with its swimming pools and movie stars.

The result is a mediocre picture that comes off as good-natured and mostly charming, but only mildly pleasing. Featuring a lame and otherwise generally awful script by newcomers Matthew Berry & Eric Abrams, the film recycles the fish out of water scenario as mixed with a criminal wrongdoings subplot. The result is a picture that feels so dated that one would almost think it was made sometime in the '80s and canned for release until now.

Beyond missing the goldmine of Beverly Hillbillies style source material where naiveté clashes with La La Land (the efforts at humor here include Dundee having problems with remote controls, thinking a valet is trying to steal his car and that the Wendy's drive-through is fine dining, misunderstanding the term gay, and not liking the sound of a coffee enema), the entire corrupt movie studio story element is contrived and dreadful, failing in both concept and execution.

Movies that poke fun at the world of moviemaking aren't terribly hard to write - after all, those making them are usually insiders "in the know" -- but director Simon Wincer ("Free Willy," "The Phantom") -- who directed Hogan in "Lightning Jack" - and his novice scribes barely scratch the surface of mocking the industry's artificiality.

Instead of dredging up the international crime ring plot that wore out its welcome decades ago, the filmmakers could have instead had their story dealing with Hollywood making a movie about Mick Dundee, and thus hiring him as a consultant. One can imagine the hijinks and humor that could follow, as Hogan's character would amusedly watch some Hollywood actor - or better yet, Steve Irwin - playing him. Alas, that, or any other more imaginative scenario wasn't to be. The resultant film thus shuffles its way from start to finish, offering a handful of amusing moments, but clearly nothing clever, innovative or surprising.

At a trim sixty-one years of age, Paul Hogan ("Flipper," "Almost an Angel") still has what it takes to make the character a charming and winning creation - even if the material and attempts at humor mostly leave him high and dry. His real-life wife, Linda Kozlowski ("Almost an Angel," "Death of a Salesman"), reprises her role from the first two films and delivers a mostly flat performance (the lack of chemistry between them doesn't help), although much of that can be attributed to the insipid script and how it deals with her character.

Serge Cockburn (who makes his acting debut) is generally okay as their son (although the filmmakers also drop the ball on playing with the obvious cultural clashes he'd experience in his first time in the States), while Alec Wilson ("Crocodile Dundee 2," "Return to Snowy River") adds a little flavor to the proceedings as another croc hunter.

Jere Burns ("My Giant," "Greed") and Jonathan Banks ("Beverly Hills Cop," "48 Hours") are flat as the film's one-dimensional villains, and Aida Turturro ("Bringing Out the Dead," HBO's "The Sopranos") and Paul Rodriguez ("Price of Glory," "Made in America") are wasted in their small roles. Meanwhile, actor George Hamilton and boxer Mike Tyson appear in some odd cameo roles that make one wonder if they were the only celebrities the filmmakers could convince to appear in their film.

Nowhere near as good as the first "Crocodile Dundee" picture -- let alone the brilliant observational humor of the original TV version of "The Beverly Hillbillies" -- in playing off the fish out of water concept, this film has the right intentions and a certain quaintness, but feels too dated and unimaginative for its own good, and thus comes off as a flat and uninspired effort. This visit to Los Angeles rates as just a 4 out of 10.




Reviewed April 18, 2001 / Posted April 20, 2001


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