The Very Excellent Mr. Dundee delivers what no one was asking for — a film featuring an octogenarian Paul Hogan and a litany of senior citizen cameos delivering dated references and lazy jokes with no payoff.
The Very Excellent Mr. Dundee is a strange film indeed. A meta-sequel to the wildly popular Crocodile Dundee series (well, parts one and two, anyway), the film sees Paul Hogan playing himself — or, at least, some semi-fictional version of himself. Now 80 years old, Hogan finds himself in lean times: no one really remembers him anymore, although it seems to only really bother him whenever it is convenient to the script. This senior citizen would rather spend his days napping on the couch than trying to get a reboot off the ground, although his upcoming knighthood by the Queen herself — for special services in… comedy? — has thrust him back into the spotlight, and he keeps fucking things up because, well, he’s 80 and gets confused easily. What follows is a series of comedic set-pieces that mostly revolve around either a simple misunderstanding or Hogan’s inability to understand today’s ultra-sensitive PC beliefs. Somewhere out there exists a version of this script that is a stealth satire on the current cancel culture. As co-written by Robert Mond and director Dean Murphy, what we instead get is a series of toothless scenes where Hogan is deemed a racist because he says Will Smith is Black; is accused of child abuse after being attacked by some underage hellions; and inadvertently knocks out a nun with a water bottle. He’s also involved in a high-speed car chase with John Cleese, of all people, playing himself as a wacky Uber driver. This film also asserts that Hogan is friends with such high-powered celebrities as Reginal VelJohnson, Olivia Newton-John, Wayne Knight, and Chevy Chase, all playing themselves. A couple of the Hemsworth brothers even pop up for cameos. Euphoria’s Jacob Elordi, meanwhile, plays Hogan’s son, who at various points is seen running a nightclub out of his bedroom, teaching yoga, and working as an online Spanish teacher. This baffling subplot has absolutely no payoff and seems to exist solely for filler, as does nearly everything else in this film, including an aspiring paparazzi photographer who lives in Hogan’s front yard and desperately wants to prove his worth to his own mother.
Objectively, this is a terrible film, featuring more greenscreen than The Phantom Menace, and a directing style that can charitably be described as lazy. Oddly, the majority of the scenes take place in moving vehicles, static medium-shots of the actors intercut with shots of the exterior backend of the car because, hey, visual interest? There is something so good-natured and genial about the film, though, that it is near impossible to get too worked up about anything on display. This is ultimately a lame film about an 80-year-old has-been that seems to have been made exclusively for the 80 and over crowd, those who will find dated jokes about crazy drink combinations (Kale? In a shake?!) still humorous. There is, however, an absolutely batshit song-and-dance number at the midway-point inspired by Hogan’s classic Dundee line, “You call that a knife?” that feels like a drug-induced hallucination that I still can’t quite believe is real. It is the only very excellent thing to be found in this decades-late misfire.
Published as part of Before We Vanish | December 2020 — Part 2.