Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (April 22, 2021)
Back in 1986, Crocodile Dundee became a surprise hit in the US. American audiences knew actor Paul Hogan from his popular “throw a shrimp on the barbie” Australia tourism commercials, but no one anticipated his feature film would do much.
As it happens, Crocodile Dundee made $174 million in the US and barely wound up in second place for the year, only a couple million behind Top Gun. This appeared to push toward a Dundee franchise.
Then came 1988’s Crocodile Dundee II. Though a definite drop from its predecessor, the film did fairly well, as it still churned $109 million, a number enough for sixth place that year – ahead of classics like Die Hard and Beetlejuice.
Despite those positive returns, Hogan left Dundee behind for more than a decade. He returned to the role for 2001’s Crocodile Dundee in Los Angeles, a massive flop. It earned a mere $25 million in the US, a figure that plopped it in 87th place for the year.
Nearly 20 years later, Hogan returns to the role for 2020’s The Very Excellent Mr. Dundee - sort of. Here Hogan plays himself, an actor in retirement who wants nothing more than to leave his most famous role behind him.
However, the public refuses to do so, and Dundee’s biggest fan – Queen Elizabeth II – wants to knight him. Hogan seems less than excited about this, but his manager Angie (Rachael Carpani) pushes him back into the limelight.
Before Hogan can accept the honor, he runs into a mix of shenanigans that threaten his comeback. Hogan works to keep his reputation intact while circumstances conspire against him.
If I search for a positive here, the simple fact that Excellent avoids the usual sequel process seems like a good thing. I don’t know how much of an audience for continued Dundee adventures exists, but the 2001 flick appeared to demonstrate “not much” was the answer, and I don’t get the impression that situation changed over the subsequent two decades.
As such, the choice of Excellent to provide a wink-wink meta concept seems like an appropriate choice – in theory, at least. The film could potentially bring a clever view of life as a faded celebrity.
Excellent starts in a mildly promising manner, perhaps because the concept comes with a bit of energy. The opening scene shows some potential for laughs, and it gives the viewer some optimism.
Unfortunately, from there Excellent just becomes one cheap sight gag sequence after another, with little to connect them. Hogan blunders from one humiliating sequence to the next and attempts to milk chortles from his endless embarrassment.
The occasional chuckle does emerge, mainly via the slew of cameos we find. John Cleese and Chevy Chase manage to locate humor in their brief spots.
Unfortunately, those instances occur infrequently, and Excellent relies too heavily on all these guest spots. In addition to Cleese and Chase, we get appearances from Olivia Newton-John, Reginald VelJohnson, Wayne Knight and Luke Hemsworth, among others.
These usually feel gratuitous, and I sense the filmmakers think the recognition value will become entertainment enough for the audience. It doesn’t, mainly because the cameos suffer through so many stale stabs at humor.
While there’s nothing wrong with the movie’s attempts to poke fun at show biz and the celebrity culture, Excellent can’t find anything new to say. It goes after low-hanging fruit and lacks cleverness.
Poor Hogan looks unhappy to find himself involved in the movie, and he appears bored with the whole endeavor. He plods his way through the proceedings and mails in his performance.
Who can blame him? If I found myself stuck in such a tedious, uninspired endeavor as Excellent, I’d feel pretty glum as well. This semi-attempt to revive the Crocodile Dundee franchise goes down too few interesting paths.