Ah, the 80s… and all of a sudden I feel nostalgic! We live in the endless era of 80s’ nostalgia, so absurd that even people who weren’t alive back then feel nostalgic about that particular period of time. But I don’t want to sound cynical. I’m here to write about a couple of movies that came out thanks to a series of strange circumstances and were incredibly successful. In the early 80s a guy called Paul Hogan became famous first on Australian TV for a sort of reality show, and then also in the US thanks to a couple of Australian cigarettes and beer commercials. So somebody thought: why don’t we make a a movie which basically is a giant tourism commercial for Australia (since the cost of air tickets is decreasing and there’s a favorable exchange rate with the Australian dollar)? Well thought! But how have the two Crocodile Dundee movies aged?
Crocodile Dundee (1986)
Crocodile Dundee is a comedy directed (badly) by Peter Faiman and starring Paul Hogan and Linda Kozlowski, who would become his wife three years later. Let’s just say that it’s quite clear that the film is no masterpiece: it’s the classic comedy based on the “fish out of water” trick to try to make the audience laugh. A US journalist (Kozlowski) is in Australia for work and travels to the North to interview a Crocodile Dundee (Hogan), who is said to have survived a crocodile attack. The two fall in love with each other and they go to New York together. In the first part of the movie, the fish out of water is the big city reporter in the Australian wilderness; in the second part, the roles are reversed with Crocodile Dundee who doesn’t know how to behave in New York.
And… that’s it. As a child I’ve seen this movie several times I have a positive memory of it. Watching it now, after so many years, it’s clear that the nostalgia effect isn’t enough to make me like the movie. Mind you: it’s not that bad and I did laugh at times. But it has such a thin plot and the TV-style direction is so bad that the scenes of the wonderful Australian landscapes barely stand out! And these are REALLY beautiful landscapes: the film was shot in the Kakadu National Park in the North of Australia, now a popular tourist destination while at the time it was practically unknown.
The amazing thing is that the film became HUGELY popular. For a budget of not even 9 million dollars, it grossed 360 million worldwide. And so, two years later, here comes the inevitable sequel!
Crocodile Dundee II (1988)
Crocodile Dundee II moves towards the action comedy genre without being a fully-fledged thriller. With the same protagonists, but with a better director (John Cornell, former producer of the first Crocodile Dundee), the film is objectively superior to its predecessor but… it’s a worse experience. Let me explain: technically it is better done, better shot, and the plot is a bit more interesting, but in the end it’s very predictable and quite boring. In this case the story starts in New York where Paul Hogan and Linda Kozlowski have been living together for six months since the end of the first film, when the two of them become involved (unwillingly) with some Latin American drug lords. Crocodile Dundee will save his beloved taken as hostage, and then both will go to Australia to escape the vengeance of the criminals they messed around with.
The few comic scenes are all in the first part of the film and they made me laugh more than those of the first movie (Dundee with the snake charmer and with the aspiring suicide man above all). Then, the thriller/action part takes over and to be honest, that’s fairly weak. At least you can tell that the budget was higher by the technical quality of the movie, and this time the Australian outback manages to shine on screen in all its beauty.
This film was another success: for a budget of 14 million dollars, it grossed almost 10 times as much worldwide. Afterwards, Paul Hogan worked on other projects, and most of all he spent a lot of energy trying to evade taxes on the earnings of these two films, something that has only recently come to an end and in a not-particularly-good way for our Crocodile Dundee. Ciao!
PS: for the sake of completeness, let me point out that in 2001 a late sequel, Crocodile Dundee in Los Angeles, came out, directed by S. Wincer. It’s unanimously considered to be very bad by both the audience and the critics. I haven’t seen it and I have no intention of doing it!