Paul Hogan was a really big deal in the mid-1980s, with the astonishingly successful fish-out-of-water comedy “Crocodile Dundee” grossing nearly $740 million in today’s dollars worldwide and netting Hogan a best original screenplay nomination and a co-hosting gig at the 1987 Oscars. (Spoiler alert: Hogan lost out to Woody Allen and “Hannah and Her Sisters” for the gold.)
The charming and likable if one-dimensional Hogan starred in a couple of mediocre “Dundee” sequels and forgettable lightweight fluff such as “Lightning Jack” and a “Flipper” movie before drifting off into the showbiz sunset. He appeared in exactly one film in the 2010s — raise your hand if you’ve heard of “That’s Not My Dog!” — and at 81 was presumably living his golden years peacefully out of the spotlight.
Sad to say, Mr. Hogan should have left well enough alone.
In the stunningly tone-deaf and horrifically unfunny “The Very Excellent Mister Dundee,” Hogan plays himself in a “Curb Your Enthusiasm”-esque conceit gone terribly wrong. This is a poorly shot, terribly lit, badly edited, amateurish would-be comedy that makes Hogan the butt of the joke and turns him into a doddering, hapless fool out of step with the world around him.
Hogan plays a version of himself, who has been forgotten by Hollywood but is now suddenly in demand to star in a new “Crocodile Dundee” movie, with a group of clichéd, health-obsessed, extremely woke executives suggesting Rachel McAdams as his love interest and Will Smith as his son. When Hogan says this is problematic, given Smith is Black, the execs are shocked. Cut to a red carpet event, where Hogan inadvertently insults Black entertainers because he’s at the wrong event, har de har. He’s an Accidental Racist, twice, isn’t that hilarious?
In other embarrassing incidents that of course go viral, Hogan gets into a fight with an overweight Crocodile Dundee impersonator and his kids on Hollywood Boulevard, nearly kills a nun and inadvertently throws a snake in the face of a bystander. Nothing like humiliating a supposedly beloved lead character time and again, in a strained effort for cheap laughs.
The great John Cleese has one of the most embarrassing roles playing a down-on-his-luck John Cleese now working as an Uber driver because he frittered away his fortune on women, drugs and gambling. Chevy Chase (who hosted the Oscars in ’87 with Hogan and Goldie Hawn) lampoons his own pompous self-image by claiming over and over he’s an Academy Award winner during an awkward lunch with Hogan. Reginald VelJohnson (Gus in “Crocodile Dundee”) shows up to remind Hogan HE’S doing just great and people love him because was in “Die Hard.” Olivia Newton-John sparkles and manages to maintain her dignity (unlike just about everyone else in this movie) as Paul’s old Aussie friend Olivia Newton-John. Wayne Knight has a cameo as Paul’s annoying house guest.
Nearly every guest star in this movie has a deer-in-the-headlights look, as if they’re not sure what they’ve gotten themselves into, while poor Paul Hogan ambles about, looking lost and bewildered and hopelessly mired in this dreadful muck.