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MOVIE REVIEWS : Re-Flexing Those Superhero Muscles : Archetypal Aussie Still a Likable Bloke in 'Dundee'

May 25, 1988|KEVIN THOMAS | Times Staff Writer

"Crocodile' Dundee II" (citywide) is almost as much fun the second time around. As an adventure it's nothing special, yet it's an inspired and good-humored presentation of one of the freshest, most likable screen personalities to emerge in the past decade.

In his commercials for Australian tourism and in this film and its predecessor, Paul Hogan has defined the archetypal Australian bloke. Lean, weathered, friendly, innocent but a superhero of endless calm and resourcefulness, Hogan has a bemused low-key personality that wears very well. The man is good company, and he doesn't take himself too seriously.

As a star, Hogan, who this time has written his script with his son Brett, knows how to present himself--you feel he's studied Clint Eastwood (and that's not just because there's an amusing reference to Eastwood in the film).

When we catch up with Dundee, he's living with his lady love, journalist Sue Charlton (Linda Kozlowski), but he is at loose ends. This allows Hogan and director John Cornell to take a little time to reacquaint us with Dundee. Without a moment's hesitation, Dundee saunters onto a skyscraper ledge to try to talk someone out of jumping off. He's just as relaxed and casual when he reflexively breaks the neck of a snake--much to the surprise of its charmer--as he saunters through the jungles of Bloomingdale's.

His pal Leroy (Charles Dutton) is trying to talk him into becoming a stationery deliveryman when Sue is kidnaped by Rico (Hechter Ubarry), a Colombian drug kingpin who believes Sue's received some incriminating photos taken by her journalist ex-husband (Dennis Boutsikaris). We're into the movie a full hour before Dundee has managed an elaborate rescue of Sue from the nefarious Rico's splendid Mediterranean-style Long Island estate. Dundee and Sue decide to lie low for a while deep in the Australian bush, but of course Rico is in fast pursuit. (Top Australian cinematographer Russell Boyd's gleaming images and majestic pans bring to the film a unifying epic sweep.)

Hogan really puts his star power to a test--first, by risking anticlimax in not having wiped out Rico and his gang when he really could have; and second, by engaging in an extended game of cat-and-mouse with him once in the bush instead of relying on the excitement of the usual good guys-versus-bad guys chase. Yet Hogan is confident enough to make this discursiveness express Dundee's deceptively laid-back personality.

This Australian sequence allows us to see this ultimate Aryan hero, as blue-eyed and blond as Chuck Norris, adopt the mystical ways of the aborigine to foil his enemy. (Peter Best's spare score is crucial here in establishing and maintaining a tense, suspenseful mood.)

As an action entertainment, " 'Crocodile' Dundee II" (MPAA-rated PG) is fairly routine and even slack, but it does effectively project a wholly engaging mythical figure of the widest audience appeal possible. Dundee derives his strength and individuality from being distinctly Australian, but Hogan wisely eliminates the male chauvinism that traditionally goes hand-in-hand with such Aussie macho.

Indeed, Hogan cleverly teams Dundee with a strong, self-reliant \o7 American\f7 woman. Linda Kozlowski's Sue is more than a good sport, she's a partner in Dundee's adventures. She has a natural beauty and elegance, coupled with an easy sophistication and unapologetic brightness, that allow her much more impact than the standard adventure film leading lady.

Dundee respects aborigines--"He's more like an aborigine than a white man," says his old bush sidekick (veteran actor John Meillon)--and sure enough, in Manhattan, Dundee's best pal is a black man.

One can sit back and admire Hogan for the wit and sharpness of his calculations, but let's face it, they wouldn't mean a thing if he himself didn't come across so persuasively as the absolutely genuine article.

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