When New York reporter Sue Charlton brings Australian hunter Mick Dundee from the Outback to the Big Apple, he becomes an instant hit. Treating the uptight city as he would the wilds of his homeland, he adapts with ease, although matters of the heart prove more complicated.
Life and art blurred when this likeable comedy became a blockbusting hit in America. Its star Paul Hogan, with his leathery, implacable Aussie charm, was an overnight superstar, directly mirroring the shrugging enthusiasm of Crocodile Dundee his briefly iconic character who won over the country in similar fashion.
There’s nothing too clever about the idea, just landing a different kind of fish out of water in a familiar comic landscape — the trilling pretension of New York City. And Hogan’s gift for self-aware understatement, as he picks not-so innocently at the luxuries and pointlessness about him, fits the bill as much as it plays a dopey cliché of thickset Australian manners. Are we really meant to believe this cogent man is truly this ignorant of the greater world like some kind of alien? Yet you easily forgive it the shakiness of concept with the crispiness of delivery. The film, for all its obviousness is hugely funny and entertaining.
Out-blading a potential mugger, the conundrum of the bidet, transsexual encounters, all the flabby vicissitudes of city life are swung across the curious simple-minded attitude of Dundee. And he meets them all with a flash of his grin and the warble of his antipodean wisdom: “Imagine seven million people all wanting to live together.” The film sags when it moves into gassy routines of the romcom. Dundee doesn’t fit the troubled heart of romantic dilemma, he’s too strong and pragmatic for us to believe in his mooning. Kozlowski, who would marry Hogan in life, does a good job with the melting rich girl enticed by his earthy charms, and it is her who holds the film just about in place when it threatens to unravel into sappiness.
Two sequels were to follow, but there was nowhere left for Dundee to go once he had become acclimatised to the American dream. The first brought the couple back to Oz for a confrontation with evil poachers, and after a gap of 13 years, tried out LA, but the joke was as flat and dated as his croc-toothed jacket.
Unpretentious, warm, at times hilarious, it's hard to find a bad word to say about Crocodile Dundee.