A cinematic fixture of the Eighties, the original "Crocodile Dundee" film is the most successful Australian film in history. Released in North America in the fall of 1986, it ended up becoming the surprise hit of the year, securing the second-highest box office gross that year. But the film's success didn't end there-- the film mined box office gold from every foreign market in which it opened, and became the third-most popular video sell-through at the time, just behind "Top Gun" and "Lady and the Tramp". Already a well-known celebrity in his own country, and somewhat familiar to global audiences as the spokesperson for Foster's Lager, Paul Hogan, the charismatic star and director of "Crocodile Dundee" quickly became synonymous with the 'Land Down Under' and the catchphrase 'put another shrimp on the barbie'. With its runaway success, a sequel was inevitable, and in 1988, "Crocodile Dundee II" debuted and did very respectable business also. But then, for the next thirteen years, the crocodile hunter from down under seemed to have vanished off the face of the earth.
Though one would think that the franchise would essentially be dead and buried, Hogan, with the help of "Free Willy" director Simon Wincer, tries to resurrect his claim-to-fame with "Crocodile Dundee in Los Angeles". Unfortunately, it seems that the third time is not the charm, as the family-friendly "Crocodile Dundee in Los Angeles" essentially rehashes elements from its predecessors without offering anything new. Like its iconic star, who has spent the last decade as a pitchman for Subaru, this franchise has become overexposed and commercialized.
When the story opens, we catch up with the famous crocodile hunter in his hometown of Walkabout Creek (population 20), which has become a tourist trap, with Mick 'Crocodile' Dundee as the star attraction. Mick lives with his girlfriend Sue (Hogan's wife Linda Kozlowski), the New York reporter he met and fell in love with in the first film, and together they have a son named Mikey (newcomer Serge Cockburn).
The plot gets into gear when Sue receives an urgent request to take over her father's Los Angeles newspaper office following the sudden death of the previous editor. Thinking it would be a nice diversion, Mick takes Mikey along for the trip to Hollywood, such that his son can learn more about America. While Mick and Mikey enjoy the sights of Southern California, Sue begins investigating the story that her predecessor had been working on prior to his death, the suspicious goings-on at a new movie studio. Despite a dubious track record of box office bombs, Silvergate Pictures manages to stay in business while continuing to fund more sequels to their lackluster "Lethal Agent" franchise. Sue thinks that the head honchos at Silvergate Pictures, Arnan Rothman (Jere Burns of "My Giant") and Milos Drubnik (Jonathan Banks of "Under Siege 2") are using the money-losing movies are a front for something else... and she's right. What happens next is what you would expect-- it's up to Mick to save the day!
Within its first five minutes, you can tell that "Crocodile Dundee in Los Angeles" is going to be a drawn-out and middling affair. The film seems tired in its execution, as though it was thrown together merely for the sake of making yet another "Crocodile Dundee" picture, offering little more than uninteresting dialogue, stilted acting, and jokes that fall flat to maintain audience interest. When "Crocodile Dundee" first came out in 1986, North American audiences had little familiarity with Australia other than koala bears, Qantas, and Mel Gibson, which served the 'fish out of water' plot well-as Mick Dundee was puzzled by the odd behavior of Americans, moviegoers found themselves puzzled by Mick Dundee. The second film took Mick back to the Outback, where he fought off South American drug runners à la "Rambo" or "Die Hard" (this was even before "Die Hard" even became pop culture shorthand for the action sub-genre). And what do we get for his third outing? Mick Dundee takes a big step backwards.
Given that it has been 15 years since Mick made the trip to the Big Apple, you would think that he would be a little less naïve to life in America. Unfortunately, audiences have to sit through a number of comic set-pieces very similar to situations that were done much better in the first film-getting mugged, walking into a gay bar, rescuing a skunk on a freeway, figuring out the various remotes in his posh Beverly Hills digs, ordering fast food at the take-out window at Wendy's, and going on a Hollywood studio tour. Unfortunately, not only do these comic 'non-events' have a 'been there, done that' feel, they are also conspicuously missing a punchline. Indeed, the film becomes increasingly frustrating to watch as it recycles bits from its far-superior predecessors and launches one comic misfire after another. In fact, without anything to entertain me in a narrative sense, I actually had more fun spotting all the obvious product placements in the film ('gee, that extra is being overzealous in how he holds that Pepsi cup', or' nice Subaru Outback').
It also doesn't help that the actors deliver their lines with the least possible energy and enthusiasm, the worst offender being Kozlowski, who not only looks uncomfortable on the screen (despite wearing some smashing outfits), but shares almost no chemistry with her supposed true love, Mick. Speaking of Mick, Hogan is still charismatic as ever, though he too seems to be going through the motions with his performance. Even the film's high-profile cameos, one by George Hamilton and the other by Mike Tyson, also fall flat.
It's been an interesting weekend of contrasts, moviegoing-wise. Yesterday, I saw "Freddy Got Fingered", which was terminally unfunny due to its mean-spirited and tasteless approach, and today I saw "Crocodile Dundee in Los Angeles", which was terminally unfunny due to its blandness. As a family-oriented film, I suppose "Crocodile Dundee in Los Angeles" is pretty harmless, with very little violence or obscene language to raise parental concern. But unfortunately, it is also a very pedestrian installment in a franchise that is way past its prime. It's a case of too little, too late.