An American reporter goes to the Australian outback to meet an eccentric crocodile poacher and invites him to New York City.An American reporter goes to the Australian outback to meet an eccentric crocodile poacher and invites him to New York City.An American reporter goes to the Australian outback to meet an eccentric crocodile poacher and invites him to New York City.
The protagonists are Mick Dundee, a bushman from northern Australia, and Sue Charleton, an attractive young female journalist from New York. Sue is on assignment in Australia, and hears stories about a legendary crocodile hunter from the small outback village of Walkabout Creek. (The name may be homage to Nicolas Roeg's film "Walkabout", one of the earliest manifestations of the Australian New Wave. One of the stars of that film, David Gumpilil, has a part in Crocodile Dundee). Sue meets Mick to interview him and travels with him into the bush to see the scene of his famed encounter with a crocodile that nearly cost him his leg. She then arranges for him to travel back to New York with her- the first time he has been outside Australia or visited a city.
The film is essentially a romantic comedy. Romantic comedies generally deal with a couple in love and the way in which they overcome obstacles to their love. A common type of obstacle is a discrepancy in their social backgrounds, and this is the type we have here. Sue and Mick seem to be polar opposites. She is a typical product of the American East Coast elite- urban, wealthy, professional, politically committed to liberal causes. He is from a working-class background, rural, apolitical with no fixed employment. As another reviewer has pointed out, he is as much a fish out of water in the city as she is in the outback. To make things worse, he is considerably older than her, and she already has a boyfriend, her editor Richard. There is, however, a saying that polar opposites attract, and this is as true of characters in romantic comedies as it is of magnets. The marvellous ending on the crowded subway station is one of the most memorable finales to any romantic comedy, rivalling that of "The Graduate".
Some romantic comedies concentrate on romance at the expense of comedy, but Crocodile Dundee is not one of them. The film is brilliantly funny, especially in the second half when the action moves to New York. The main source of the humour is Paul Hogan's title character. Mick is a rough diamond, but decent, kindly and good-hearted. Most of the laughs arise from his innocent misunderstanding of the seedier aspects of life in the big city- there are jokes at the expense of prostitutes, criminals like the muggers who flee when they see Mick has a bigger knife than they have ("That's not a knife. THAT'S a knife!"), transvestites (one of whom Mick mistakenly tries to chat up), drug takers (Mick thinks cocaine is a cure for blocked sinuses) and psychiatrists ("Haven't you got any mates to talk to?") This last sentiment touched a chord in Britain, ever suspicious of the American obsession with psycho-analysis. Mick may be apolitical, but he is also politically incorrect- much of the humour is aimed at the culture of political correctness, just starting to burgeon in the mid-eighties. There are jokes about race and gender, and Dundee is not only a drinker but also a heavy smoker. (And this during a decade when smoking was almost banished from the screen).
Some of the humour is perhaps a bit exaggerated- it is, for example, difficult to believe that Mick does not recognise the prostitutes for what they are, as he is no sexual innocent but a red-blooded ladies' man with an eye for the Sheilas- but this is deliberate exaggeration for satirical effect. The film both satirises and celebrates Australia's self-image as a land of self-reliant pioneers from the outback- most modern Australians, in fact, live in the suburbs of a few large cities- by contrasting idealised rural Australian values with the supposed vices of urban America.
Despite the great success of this film, the sequel was less successful and Paul Hogan and his lovely co-star Linda Kozlowski (who later became his wife) did not perhaps go on to the glittering careers that some had predicted for them. Nevertheless, Mick Dundee will live on as one of the great comic characters of all time, and the film itself as one of the best comedies of the eighties and possibly the best Australian comedy ever. 9/10
- Mar 1, 2005