Review: “The Crocodile Hunter – Collision Course”

I was extremely worried about how bad this project would be, especially after the absolutely horrific trailer (not the decent teaser with the croc MGM logo thing, the other one) showing what looked like an awful comedy. The final result, well the good news is that trailer was worse than the final movie.

The bad news? The final movie may not be god awful, but rather just ordinarily bad. The whole point of making a movie based on a television show is to take the premise and expand it into a fully integrated feature-length story that allows the creators to do sequences and visuals that they just aren’t capable of doing on a TV-sized budget and time schedule. This especially applies to films when the TV series in question is still in production as otherwise what’s the point of forking over money for a ticket when you can get the same thing free on the box, especially a franchise like this which plays endlessly on cable throughout the world.

Sadly the producers of “Collision Course” have not risen to the occasion. What you have here are three very loosely connected elements which do eventually tie into each other but by the time they do your wondering “why in the hell did I spend money on this?”. The strongest is easily the scenes with the Irwins, which for half the time are pretty much what you see on television. Steve tackles two snakes, a bird-eating spider (which is funnily enough the film’s most convincingly tense sequence), and has a massive ‘croc capture’ scene.

As the film progresses and things become more tied in with each other, the tone of the Irwin scenes change to a more over the top action hero spoof. This comes complete with loud orchestral music, a worried love interest (Terri dropping damsel-in-distress lines like “Be careful Steve”), and Holllywood style antics (such as a speedboat’s motor failing at the most inconvenient time). This both ups the camp value but removes a lot of the suspense and tension from the action scenes. The Irwin’s are likeable (especially the redoubtable Terri who’d make a decent comic performer), whilst even the dog is cute.

The second element though is a very B-Grade CIA spy story involving Aussie actors (none of which are well known outside Oz though two of them will be in the Matrix sequels) with bad US accents attempting to retrieve a downed satellite which has landed inside a croc’s stomach in outback Australia. In an added twist of daytime soap style complexity, a beautiful female agent (selected because she’s apparently the only “Orssie” working at Langley) looks set to double cross the field agents out to retrieve the hardware, whilst working under the guise of helping them out. Even bad Tom Clancy adaptations like “Op Center” at least try and get the politics and accuracy right.

Here the dialogue, believability factor, overuse of wall monitors and phrases like “shifting the power balance of the free world” add up to scenes which are as convincing to real life intelligence work as “Bold and the Beautiful” is to real life relationships (and at least ‘Bold’ has a sense of trashy fun).

In-house political fighting within agencies if done right can be gripping stuff (eg. “Spy Game”), here – well I’ve never seen the subject matter look so boring. The two agents and the female ‘traitor’ after the Croc in the outback are slightly more entertaining (esp. Kate Beahan who never over plays it like the blokes), but this is still pretty poor (and awfully tied up) for even a direct-to-video effort let alone a major theatrical release.

There’s a third subplot with Magda Szubanski as gun-toting redneck farmer ‘Brozzie’ and David Wenham (about to hit it big in the US with roles in the next two “Lord of the Rings” films) as a concerned Park Ranger who has to regularly stop the cranky Brozzie from shooting everything. Both have shown fantastic comic performances in the past on television, but here both are just so ordinary (esp. Wenham) one wonders why they even agreed to be a part of it aside from maybe the paycheck.

This storyline had the potential to be the most embarrassing (portraying Aussie farmers as mean hillbillies straight out of “Deliverance” country) and whilst its stereotyped in the extreme, the Brozzie character is just so over the top its not even vaguely realistic as a character let alone as a representation of any group.

One of the few gags in the whole movie that actually works has the CIA linking the Irwins to events of political unrest in the countries they were in at the time (eg. East Timor, Indonesia, Kenya) and their access to US military equipment during a tour for the US troops. There’s a few attempts at ‘dumb Americans find poisonous critters’ style humour which just fizzles, whilst the serious attempts at drama or intrigue just don’t work.

Large scale action sequences such as a speedboat/glider river chase towards the end are kind of fun but again feel poorly worked in with the other storylines. The up close cinematography adds to the tension early on (eg. the spider sequence) but seriously had they just shown highlights from the TV show up on the big screen it would’ve worked a lot better (as displayed in the end credits). A bad film? God yes, but its more just such a non-entity of a movie that its not worth wasting time on. Save your money and watch Irwin on cable, he’s far more entertaining there.