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'Crocodile Dundee': Nabob in a Strange Land


The overlapping comebacks of Crocodile Dundee at the movies and Randle Patrick McMurphy on Broadway (in the hit revival of "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest") only reconfirms a nutty paradox of hero worship: People will enthusiastically embrace fictional characters they would otherwise cross a busy street to avoid were they to encounter them in real life.

For the nonconforming behaviors of a Dundee or a McMurphy to seem appealing, they must be challenged by a status quo that seems suffocating, if not downright stupid, by contrast. Party animal McMurphy had the dehumanizing hospital rules as embodied by the starchy Nurse Ratchett. Dundee, the amiable, effortlessly rugged Dr. Dolittle of the Australian outback, had New York City with its multiethnic exoticism and trendsetter pretensions.

Dundee creator Paul Hogan could be doing his stranger in a strange land routine till the crocodiles come home: Las Vegas, Disney World, even cosmopolitan Sydney would be an "E.T." adventure for the blond man with the black cowboy hat, the big knife and the ready smile. For his third and most mind-numbing go-round, Hogan has instead taken his clueless hillbilly act to Los Angeles, a place where life can seem especially strange to people who don't live there.

In "Crocodile Dundee in Los Angeles," Mick Dundee has settled into a cozy outback life wrestling crocodiles, leading tours of the bush and sharing a home with his domestic partner, Sue Charleton (Linda Kozlowski, repeating her dopey role as a tirelessly chic Newsday reporter who appears to have earned her degree at the Vogue School of Journalism). They now have a 10-year-old son, Mikey (Serge Cockburn), a chip off the old man's block who has already aced the arts of clobbering rats with blackboard erasers and objectifying women with crass anatomical terms.

When Sue accepts a temporary post at Newsday's Los Angeles bureau, Mick and Mikey follow her out and, well, you can just imagine the hilarious high jinks that result! Not since Lucy Ricardo went to Hollywood has the town seen such merry chaos! Laugh as Mick Dundee takes his first Jacuzzi bath! Laugh as Dundee and son stop freeway traffic and inadvertently bring in the bomb squad to rescue a skunk! Laugh as Dundee and his bush mate Jacko (Alec Wilson) mistakenly stumble into a gay bar on country-western night!

Lucy Ricardo, for her part, at least got to hobnob with the likes of William Holden and Harpo Marx. The best that Mick Dundee can muster is George Hamilton pontificating on coffee enemas, and Mike Tyson making like the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. The rest of the time he is skulking around the back lots of Paramount trying to help Sue uncover some dirty show-business doings.

Where there was a modicum of charm to Mick Dundee's earliest exploits in New York City, the joke has withered as markedly as Hogan's face. After 15 years, he's ossified into an Oz version of the ugly American tourist, the willfully naive nabob who imposes his lifestyle wherever he goes and refuses to educate himself or in any other way make an effort toward adapting himself to the customs of his host country.

The ever-accommodating Kozlowski has traded in her fawning damsel-in-distress hat for an adoring, That's-My-Mick grin, which Sue flashes whenever Dundee commits another embarrassing faux pas. There is much speculation between Sue and Mick as to whether their illegitimate son is going to grow up to wrestle crocodiles or head a big daily newspaper like Newsday. After a third wrestle with Mick Dundee, this Newsday employee feels compelled to inquire, those are the choices?

* MPAA rating: PG, for some language and brief violence. Times guidelines: crude, unoriginal, occasionally sexist humor.

'Crocodile Dundee in Los Angeles'

Paul Hogan: Mick Dundee

Linda Kozlowski: Sue Charleton

Jere Burns: Arnan Rothman

Jonathan Banks: Milos Drubnik

Paramount Pictures presents a Lance Hool/Paul Hogan production, in association with Guy Hands, released by Paramount. Director Simon Wincer. Producers Lance Hool, Paul Hogan. Executive producers Kathy Morgan, Steve Robbins, Jim Reeve. Screenplay by Matthew Berry & Eric Abrams, based on characters created by Paul Hogan. Cinematographer David Burr. Editor Terry Blythe. Costume designer Marion Boyce. Music Basil Poledouris. Production designer Leslie Binns. Running time: 1 hour, 35 minutes.

In general release.

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