Review by Sean Boelman
There comes a time in an actor’s career where they can afford to not take themselves too seriously, and The Very Excellent Mr. Dundee shows Paul Hogan at that point. Light and insubstantial, but goofy and sweet enough to be fun, this is sure to be a treat for any fans of the Crocodile Dundee star.
The film follows Hogan playing himself as he attempts to prepare to receive a knighthood, but finds himself doing damage control when he gets into some unexpected hijinks. For the most part, it’s an excuse to see Hogan back in action along with some of his former co-stars and other famous Aussies.
Much of the movie is just one gag after another, so even when one joke falls flat, viewers know that there’s one coming right up that may get the laugh. A majority of it is the family-friendly slapstick humor and slightly bawdy innuendos that got Hogan into the spotlight in the first place, but there are also some moments in which Hogan goes for the tongue-in-cheek meta humor.
The only aspect of the film that feels like an absolute miss is when it tries to be a criticism of cancel culture. There are a couple jokes that may have been funny ten years ago, poking fun at the protagonist’s ignorance, that simply feel out-of-touch in this day and age, particularly if it comes from someone like John Cleese, who has been involved in controversy themselves.
Admittedly, the movie could have done a bit more in terms of character development. Hogan will obviously already have some pre-existing goodwill from his fans, and his story is very endearing, but it’s also a very conventional redemption arc. There are some threads, like his relationship with his granddaughter inspiring him to become a better person, that could have been expanded.
And as is the case with so many Hollywood-set romps, there are obviously quite a few entertaining cameos. The funniest is perhaps Wayne Knight (Jurassic Park) probably has the funniest one, setting up the best recurring gag in the film, but Chevy Chase, Reginald VelJohnson, and Olivia Newton-John all make memorable appearances.
Director Dean Murphy does his best given the circumstances, but there are some clear limitations. Older actors such as these obviously aren’t going to be doing extensive stunts, so the more high-octane scenes, like car chases, are shot in a way that is very evidently obscuring their absence in the effects shots. Still, this rarely distracts from the comedy of the moment.
The Very Excellent Mr. Dundee isn’t anything particularly deep, but there are enough laughs to make it worth a watch. It’s great to see Paul Hogan get the chance to have fun again, as he hasn’t had many roles in recent years.
The Very Excellent Mr. Dundee hits VOD on December 11.