a critiQal film review Crocodile Dundee (1986)

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Plot: New York reporter Sue (Kozlowski) heads to Australia to interview living legend Michael J. "Crocodile" Dundee (Hogan), who has spent his entire life in the Australian outback. After spending a few days with Dundee, she is so taken with him she brings him him back with her to New York. Once he arrives there, Dundee is amazed by the wonders of the city and the interesting people he meets.

573 words (Est. Reading Time 2m 51s)

After taking last weekend off to celebrate the 4th of July, it was time to dig back in and find a film to watch for this Saturday’s Retro Review. Going to NetFlix® as usual, I discovered a whole selection of films titled “Movies from the 1980’s,” which was exactly what I was looking for – and Crocodile Dundee popped up.

I vaguely remember seeing Crocodile Dundee years ago, and figured that would fit the ticket for today’s Retro Review. So, I settled in and gave it a shot. Would this “fish out of water” tale still be fun in 2016? Or has the fun of Crocodile Dundee gone the way of the dodo?

Paul Hogan – who also co-wrote the film – stars as Michael J. “Crocodile” Dundee, and seems at ease in front of the camera. He’s definitely into his character, and does a good job of keeping the audience entertained. Whether he’s in his character’s natural habitat in the Australian outback, or playing clueless in the big city, viewers will want to stick around to see what he does next.

Linda Kozlowski, on the other hand, isn’t quite as entertaining. She’s around basically to provide a reason for Dundee to transport himself to the Big Apple, and it’s obvious from the start. Unlike similar film Romancing the Stone (1984), there isn’t really that beginning part where the two main characters don’t get along. In Crocodile Dundee, it’s more of a dismissal by Kozlowski’s Sue, which changes quickly enough.

While the film is largely a walking cliché by this point, there’s still something entertaining about Crocodile Dundee. Maybe it’s the lighthearted feel of the film. Even when out in the wild and Sue is being attacked by crocs and the like, the film never really provides much drama. Instead, it’s aim more seems to be to showcase a lighthearted “fish out of water” tale – first for Sue in the outback, then for Dundee in the city.

While Sue’s interactions with Dundee in the outback are decent, it’s Dundee’s entrance to the big city where the film really finds it’s stride. While it sticks to basic lighthearted stuff like mistakenly identifying New Yorkers as friendly folk (since they live close to each other) or mistaking prostitutes for friendly women, Dundee manages to make it through New York with nothing more than some minor foibles. This could have gone quite differently, of course, but the film plays up the comedy aspect rather than the grittier details.

While this was probably more fun back in the 80’s, a lighthearted comedy like this is a welcome break occasionally from the grittier films that play these days. In Crocodile Dundee, the 80’s were a fun time, where a modern-day Tarzan figure could get along in the big city without too much trouble. Dundee’s character is a welcome change of pace for the modern-day drudge of big city living, and the folks around him seem to be the better off for making his acquaintance.

Sure, it’s rather far-fetched, and at times it’s kinda cheesy, but Hogan’s likeable character manages to win the viewer over anyway. It’s just too bad the rest of the film, with its abundance of over-used clichés and predictable ending, doesn’t really seem to deliver as well as he does. Stick with Romancing the Stone (1984) for a romantic comedy from the 80’s, since the Michael Douglas/Kathleen Turner (and Danny DeVito) combo outshines Paul Hogan’s solo performance.

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