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December 17, 2020

Movie Review: "The Very Excellent Mr. Dundee" (2020, Transmission Films/Lionsgate)

...ya' know, folks?? There's a classic line from the 1985 apocalyptic actioner, "Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome", where the Tina Turner character, Auntie Entity says 'tsk, tsk' resignedly to Max...", how the world turns, doesn't it?? One day...cock of the walk...and the next, a feather duster...". Now, I only mention that line in parallel with "The Very Excellent Mr. Dundee", in a sort of positive, albeit melancholy way. After all, until he surprisingly showed up in an Australian travelogue Super Bowl TV commercial spot, a couple years ago (...a delightful piece of comical whimsy, which rampantly sparked a rumor of a fourth 'Dundee' movie), most folks out there probably assumed that Paul Hogan had quietly retired, faded away, and even outright let loose his mortal coil. Which makes THIS lightweight, slapstick funny 'slice of life' (...what was the line in Blake Edwards' 1988 mystery/comedy?? Something like '...hey, it's all true...give or take a lie or two!!'), all the more surprising...and well, quite amusing actually...

...yes, folks...Paul Hogan proves himself still quite well alive and kicking (...expressively, Paul Hogan and his inescapable 'Crocodile Dundee' character have never really been that far removed from each other...albeit, the latter had the more daredevil/thrill-seeker side to him), and herein this film...playing himself, of course...totally realizes that his legendary 'Crocodile Dundee' celebrity glory days are long-since past (...there ARE the occasional ribs 'n' pokes, here and there, aimed at his other films...and despite the critical naysayers...hey, I LIKED "Lightning Jack", thank you very much!!). All he seems content to do, by this time, is to fully retire, relax, embrace his golden years, and in the course of this film's events, try to make an appearance at his loving grand-daughter's holiday school recital...

...however...Hollywood itself (...gotta love that gawl-darn city of dreams) absolutely loves nostalgia, and equally loves a comeback. And so, with the help of a doting, closely attending, though quite insistent agent (...a sort of 'hand-me-down' agent, actually...the 'daughter' of Paul's supposed original agent), Paul is reluctantly convinced into not only a proposed knighthood by the Queen of England (...seems that "Crocodile Dundee in Los Angeles" is her favorite movie), but the prospects of yet another 'Dundee' movie (...quite candidly, I loved the bumbling 'faux' movie sequel concept, in that Super Bowl ad...hell, bring THAT on!!). And it's the slapstick aftermath of the announcement of those two lucrative prospects, which Paul finds himself inexplicably caught up in, that invariably ensues...

...what's quite interesting about this's not only about an almost forgotten 'legend', chasing down his glory days (...uh, nope, probably the wrong term...something more like '...for good, or for bad...being reluctantly pushed back into the limelight'), it's also about how our dearly dedicated, albeit quite invasive press and media, just LOVE to exploit a reportable situation...especially if it's not in the best of light. Comeback news is good news...but as history has often dictated, negative comeback news and negative behind-the-scenes behavior makes for even better coverage, as far as journalism goes. And so, with each and every slapstick pratfall, which Paul gets caught up in, the press invariably twists each of the accidentally instilled incidents, so that it makes Paul look like...well, makes him look like an asshole. Something which Paul and/or 'Dundee' himself might have simply shoulder-shrugged off, with a resounding 'eh'...if not for the fact that the negative press is threatening to adversely affect how his dear grand-daughter sees him... looking older, more weathered (, as if he didn't already look weathered enough, some 30-plus years ago), and somewhat slower...nonetheless, Paul Hogan's irreverent, down-under savvy, charm and personality still manages to exude an embraceable sense of both nostalgia, as well as the welcome notion of 'yeah, I might be older and more weathered, but hey...I'm still kickin'. Actress Racheal Carpani is typically affecting enough as Paul's frazzled, albeit dedicated agent/manager, without going overboard on the standard character ( opposed to the ol' stereotype of ' look faw-bulous'), as she repeatedly/exasperatedly buries her face in her hands, with each and every bit of trouble that Paul inadvertently gets into. Nate Torrance, as a bumbling photographer, trying to get any inside 'dope' on Paul, and instead ends up palling around with him, seems sort of negligible in the sense that he appears to be playing the same type of bumbling character that actor Jonah Hill used to play, early in his career. And upcomer Jacob Elordi is charming, albeit somewhat ill-used as Paul's live-in son, who seems to come off here looking like a handsome yuppie adult version of John Cusack's smarmy and talented lil' brother, in the 80's flick, "Better Off Dead", with Paul (...who accepts and loves the lad, but really doesn't know a lot about him) inadvertently walking in on him, or bumping into him, entertaining the ladies in his room, or cooing poolside guests with a light-strumming guitar riff...

...but then, the overall sense of nostalgia in this little trite of a film, amusingly stretches beyond that of Paul Hogan himself. Playing themselves...Olivia Newton-John, Wayne Knight ( an unexpected house guest of Paul's), and Reginald VelJohnson (...remember 'Gus', the limo driver in the original "...Dundee"...and of course, his cop role in "Die Hard"??) seem little more like quick '...hey, that's (fill in the blank)' roles, but it was still rather fun and nice to see them. The funniest cameo bits here, however, can be attributed to Chevy, exaggeratedly playing up the supposed 'asshole' persona that the press has often reportedly attributed him as...and at the same time, he's amusingly thumbing his nose at the well as John Cleese, herein exasperatedly resigned to string out his remaining post-comedic twilight years as an unlicensed, chase-happy Uber driver. Heck, even fellow Aussie Mel Gibson gets in a quick jab, in a fleeting piece of what appears to be recent archival interview footage, with Mel looking as if he just stepped off the set of his recent irreverent Christmas flick, "Fatman"...

...having foregone and bypassed any sort of theatrical release...uh, thanks to the wretched pandemic..."The Very Excellent Mr. Dundee" has instead been unceremoniously dumped onto streaming venues. which is a bit of a shame, as it may not find the whole of the audience who would appreciate the overall warm sense of nostalgia, which the film assuredly has. As such, this trite and warmly affecting bit of comical muse...may well pass by with little notice. On the whole, 'Excellent' might well be too strong a word for this one...perhaps more like a funny and charming tip of the hat...and that makes it good enough to warrant checking this one out.....

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