THE VERY EXCELLENT MR. DUNDEE (2020)
Starring Paul Hogan, Chevy Chase, John Cleese, Olivia Newton-John, Jacob Elordi, Kerry Armstrong, Rachael Carpani, Shane Jacobson, Reginald VelJohnson, Wayne Knight, Paul Fenech, Charlotte Stent, Nate Torrence, Luke Hemsworth, Jim Jefferies, Kevin Frazier, Luke Bracey, Richard Wilkins and Costas Mandylor.
Screenplay by Robert Mond and Dean Murphy.
Directed by Dean Murphy.
Distributed by Lionsgate. 88 minutes. Rated PG-13.
It’s not exactly an easy sell to convince the world that there is a need for another Crocodile Dundee movie about 35 years after the original film became a surprise indie smash and made a short-lived star out of its lead actor, Australian comic Paul Hogan. After all, the two previous Dundee sequels – Crocodile Dundee II (1988) and the belated released Crocodile Dundee in Los Angeles (2001) – were considered to be huge box office disappointments.
So, 20 years on from the almost forgotten third film, with the star now an octogenarian, how do you get anyone to care enough to sit still for yet another film in the series?
I will give The Very Excellent Mr. Dundee credit, they came up with a rather clever, very meta concept to sell Mick Dundee in the new millennium. Specifically, this is not a Crocodile Dundee film, per se, it’s actually a comic riff on the idea of making a new film in the series after all of these years.
Paul Hogan does not play the character of Mick “Crocodile” Dundee here, he plays a fanciful comic riff on himself – Paul Hogan, aging film star, dealing with a new world and trying to enjoy retirement, but people keep trying to get him to return to the role that made him (briefly) famous. While he is trying to live a quiet, secluded life, he keeps innocently stumbling into situations which make him a tabloid villain.
He also gets some aging actor friends – like John Cleese, Chevy Chase, Olivia Newton-John, Reginald VelJohnson and Wayne Knight – to play good natured comic riffs on their own personas.
It’s a rather clever idea, and while the movie doesn’t exactly end up working, it is better than we could have expected at this point in history.
Part of the problem with the film is exposed in the extended introduction, a clips compilation reminding the world who Paul Hogan is, and why he was famous (again, briefly), first as a TV host in Australia, then for ads promoting Aussie tourism, and finally for his first Crocodile Dundee film, which at the time became one of the biggest indie comedies ever.
It’s never good when you must give a tutorial on your subject just to remind the audience why they once knew him and loved him.
I just wish they did more with their subversive concept. Instead, they just thrust Paul into a series of odd misunderstandings and slapstick stunts. Hogan tries to gamely throw himself into the hijinks, and he still does have his old charm, but even he can only take the gags of The Very Excellent Mr. Dundee so far. Mistakenly tossing a snake at a woman’s face or knocking out a nun isn’t really funny, even when done in a slapstick manner.
The film isn’t even self-aware with its self-awareness. At one point, it has Paul refusing to do a film with Rachel McAdams as his romantic co-star, because, as he rightly points out, he’s in his 80s and she’s in her 30s, and it is ridiculous to have a romantic relationship with that big an age difference. However, later, when The Very Excellent Mr. Dundee does find Paul a potential romantic match “in real life,” the actress playing her looks to be at least 20 to 30 years younger than he is – definitely older, but still not exactly age appropriate.
There is still no real reason to bring this franchise back after all these years, but I will give them credit for trying to do something a little different with it. I just wish it worked better than it does.
Jay S. Jacobs
Copyright ©2021 PopEntertainment.com. All rights reserved. Posted: February 16, 2021.