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‘Crocodile Dundee II’

By Hal Hinson
Washington Post Staff Writer
May 25, 1988


John Cornell
Paul Hogan;
Linda Kozlowski;
John Meillon;
Charles S. Dutton;
Hector Ubarry;
Juan Fernandez
Parental guidance suggested

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"'Crocodile' Dundee II," which features the further escapades of Paul Hogan as the Australian bushman Michael J. Dundee, plays as if it was written in an afternoon by a bunch of mates out on the back nine.

The first "Crocodile" picture -- which went on to become the most profitable foreign film ever made -- wasn't great entertainment, but it was light, companionable and essentially inoffensive. Compared with the sequel, though, it looks like a masterpiece.

The situation is much as it was at the end of the earlier film. Mick is still living in New York with his reporter friend Sue (Linda Kozlowski), and since he doesn't work, he whiles away the hours fishing and hoisting the suds at a local bar. But time hangs heavy on this gentle, natural man and, restless, he begins looking for something to occupy his days.

By the time he finds a job, though, the leisurely, ambling rhythm of the film has been established, and you've begun to wonder if maybe the cast and crew have overdosed on Sleepy Time tea. " 'Crocodile' Dundee II" is about as laid-back a movie as you're ever likely to nap through. The actors take forever to recite their lines, and scenes unfold as if the filmmakers had rented the screen by the month. And the pace doesn't quicken when Mick has to rescue Sue from a gang of South American drug dealers who've kidnaped her to retrieve some incriminating photos sent to her by her ex-husband.

The film was shot by John Cornell (from a script cowritten by Hogan and his son Brett) who produced the first movie but has never directed before. And Cornell seems not to have understood that for Dundee's heroic laconicism to work, the world around him has to have some energy; it's got to move. But Cornell doesn't know how to create pace or movement. He directs as if he were swinging in a hammock.

The virtue of the "Crocodile" films is their gentleness, and as an alternative to the assaultive violence of some contemporary films, they encourage kindly feelings. But the makers of this movie seem to have decided that, as long as the film is good-natured and sunny, craftsmanship and originality are superfluous. They've fallen prey to the feel-good fallacy.

As a result, the story line is arbitrary, the gags flaccid and the performances slack. In the first installment, the "Crocodile" character was still being elucidated, and this, along with the basic incongruity of having this noble primitive -- a modern Leatherstocking -- on the loose in Manhattan, gave the original a pointedness that the sequel lacks.

As for Hogan, he looks fit, tan and substantially older than when we last saw him, which makes the romance between him and Kozlowski seem creepier than it did before. (Perhaps this is why the filmmakers have them touch as little as possible.) As a comedian, Hogan has basically one move -- implacable nonreaction. And it's a pretty good one. But by now the routine has calcified; there's no freshness or spontaneity in it anymore. And since he hasn't bothered to provide himself with much in the way of material, he spends much of his time looking the way Dean Martin used to look when his glass was empty.

Even the subsidiary pleasures of the earlier film -- such as Russell Boyd's cinematography and Linda Kozlowski's wiseacre style -- are missing. Boyd's work, which is usually outstanding, looks washed out and overexposed. (With so many prints needed for the film to have its record-breaking opening, he may be the victim of subpar processing.) And Kozlowski, who's poorly shot, has little more than a damsel-in-distress role.

What " 'Crocodile' Dundee II" most resembles is one of those "Cannonball Run" movies, so much so in fact that you half-expect to Burt Reynolds and Bubba Smith to come sidling into the frame. Half-expect and half-hope.

"Crocodile" Dundee II, at area theaters, is rated PG.

© Copyright 1999 The Washington Post Company

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