An old-fashioned comedy that doesn’t quite find its footing in 2020
THE VERY EXCELLENT MR. DUNDEE (2020)
The Very Excellent Mr. Dundee is a hybrid sequel, focusing not on Crocodile Dundee, but on the man behind the crocs. Although an old-fashioned comedy that doesn’t quite find its footing in 2020, it still has a lot of heart – and a couple of knives.
This is the 4th feature film collaboration between director Dean Murphy and star Paul Hogan, not including a documentary Murphy also directed & produced on Hogan back in 2014. It’s clear to see Hogan has become a bit of a muse for him, and his direction in this film is strong, especially so when it’s hitting the emotional beats of Paul’s character. A bright and breezy self-parody, it leans hard into the style of 90s comedy and 00s sitcoms and knows the jokes to hit on its way around. The use of archive red carpet footage throughout is particularly brilliant, as well as being a wonderful pacing tool.
Our introduction to the film and to Mr. Dundee, or should we say Paul Hogan, is super helpful for anyone who might not be aware of the Crocodile Dundee franchise or Hogan’s impact on Australian culture and tourism. It’s perfectly pitched and settles us right in for a film that becomes part sitcom and part meta-commentary on the state of ‘celebrity’.
Hogan is a quiet man who just wants to retire peacefully. He dreams of returning to Australia to relax and spend more time with his young granddaughter, but when he is put in the running for a Knighthood, he needs to keep his image squeaky clean, which is harder than he might have thought. The knighthood storyline is especially silly, but so are most of the subplots within the film. Plenty of hijinks ensue, including some brilliant physical comedy and even a car chase, though the long running gag involving his millennial son who has no end of side hustles was the most amusing for me.
There’s some old-fashioned humour that won’t work for everyone; a particular scene when discussing a potential castmate for a Dundee sequel with the studio felt out of place in 2020, but I can also imagine others laughing at it. However, despite this the film had one of my favourite endings of 2020 which I found to be so sweet and shows the true heart at the core of the film.
ACTING | CHARACTERS | DIALOGUE:
Hogan is brilliant in the lead role, playing a parody version of himself. Keeping the film together in the straight man role, he brings an endearing quality to the performance and the film is at its best in those quieter moments where he is able to reflect. His relationships with those around him help build both his character arc and the films plot momentum, not least with the gorgeous dog he shares his home with. A truly great dog.
Rachael Carpani plays his long-suffering manager Angie, and the pair have great on screen chemistry with Carpani bringing a welcome sense of compassion to the film. Hogan’s best scenes however are those he shares over video chat with granddaughter Lucy, played by Charlotte Stent who already has a whopping 35 credits to her name. She’s utterly charming and reminds us of the real Paul, a man in his 80s who just wants to enjoy the little things with those he loves.
There’s plenty of cameos and supporting characters, but those involving Chevy Chase and John Cleese flatten the mood and emotion of the film, and the character of Luke feels in the way, though there are a couple of laughs in these performances.
VISUAL EFFECTS | MAKEUP | DESIGN:
LA looks stunning in the film, which is why it’s funny to note that it was mostly filmed in Australia. Gorgeous sunshine, beautiful locations, and a stunning house. Very enjoyable view to immerse yourself in for an hour or two.
MUSIC | SCORE | SOUND DESIGN:
The score and music choices throughout are brilliant, providing all the emotional beats we need. Incredibly reminiscent of a 90s comedy score, it fits with the tone and style of the film perfectly – especially during the big car chase scene.
The Very Excellent Mr. Dundee will not be for everyone with its old fashioned, and at times even cringey humour, likely being a block for some audiences. But, when you strip that away, I found a silly but endearing comedy that I enjoyed chuckling along to, even at its most corny.
THE EXCELLENT MR. DUNDEE Premieres on VOD - December 11th, 2020