THE CROCODILE HUNTER: COLLISION COURSE
Director: John Stainton
Cast: Steve Irwin, Terri Irwin, Magda Szubanski, David Wenham, Lachy Hulme, Aden Young, Kenneth Ransom, Kate Beahan
MPAA Rating: (for action violence/peril and mild language)
Running Time: 1:30
Release Date: 7/12/02
Review by Mark Dujsik
I don't know what makes Steve Irwin tick, but that's probably because I'm not the most adventurous bloke around. I would say the man were crazy, but I'm most definitely sure it isn't insanity that drives him to wander around Australia with his wife Terri looking for dangerous animals to examine and prod them in ways that some people have nightmares about. No, I'm heavily leaning in the direction that it's passion that compels his escapades—passion for nature and awareness. That's why it's sad to report that The Crocodile Hunter: Collision Course is almost entirely void of passion, save for the guy with the khaki shorts and big, silly grin. I've never seen Irwin's cable television show except in small clips, but even when surrounded by a dreadfully unimaginative and forced plot and out of his element in obvious and hokey staged bits of "documentary footage," he's undoubtedly and unabashedly having the time of his life. It's easy to see why he's popular; he's charming, entirely likeable, and probably at least a little bit crazy.
The plot I dread trying to remember starts with the explosion of a US satellite orbiting the globe. A vital piece of the vessel flies through the atmosphere and lands in Australia, where it's eaten by a twelve-foot crocodile (never mind the incredible temperature the piece must be at the time). Turns out this MacGuffin—like all MacGuffins for that matter—is really important, because it sends the CIA or whatever fictional movie agency they may have used into a panic. So a couple of agents (don't ask for names, because I don't feel like looking them up) are sent down under to find the thing with a little bit of inside help who's is actually double-crossing them to aid a mysterious man in a dark car who wants it for his own benefit. Meanwhile in Oz, a rancher is having problems of her own with the crocodile, which is eating her cattle. She has a go at trying to shoot it a few times, but a national wildlife agent has called in the Irwins to help with her problem.
While all this is going on, the Irwins are doing their outback wandering thing, shot in a more television-friendly aspect ratio, apparently to give it the feeling of an episode of their show. So we've got the movie and the show within the movie, and rarely the twain shall meet. I don't know how much further I can get into about the terribleness of the plot without it becoming redundant, but its entire presence is like a slap to the audience's collective face. Why is it even here? No one cares, and the only enjoyable parts of the movie happen between the scripted sections. But the seeming majority of the movie is comprised of this atrocious story that contributes nothing until it helps lead to the downfall of the documentary segments. The director John Stainton and editors Suresh Ayyar and Bob Blasdall make little or no effort to try and hide the fact that the secondary players are completely uninvolved with Irwin and vice versa during filming. This leads to scene like the villains hearing the Irwins' boat and then immediately being scared away before the boat can pass, because they were probably never anywhere near each other at the time.
In fact, I learn the portions with Irwin were improvised. The question remains whether the animals were part of the wild or from Irwin's zoo collection, but either way, he really handles these dangerous creatures. One scene features a spider with fangs that are larger than those of most snakes. He offers it a stick, to simulate a hapless piece of prey, and as it bites down, we see pretty good sized droppings of poison left behind. Irwin's hand shakes through this entire section, lending complete credibility to the reality of the scene. Another scene has him with a poisonous snake (are there any non-deadly animals in Australia he could grab?), whose poison, he tells us, causes parts of its victim's body to rot and fall off. When you see a man do this, you don't question whether or not he does any of the rest of the stunts the movie requires. Some of these scenes make me wish I had paid attention to see if the American Humane Association (or the Australian equivalent) disclaimer was present during the end credits. Once Irwin gets to the crocodile, though, we can feel the authenticity of these scenes slip away. I'm not saying he doesn't actually tie up the main crocodile while it snaps at him, but the spontaneity is gone.Eventually, the two segments (movie and documentary) merge, leading to ordinary and boring action sequences, like a fight atop a boat atop a moving jeep and a glider dropping dynamite at the Irwins' boat, and more inane plot developments. The Crocodile Hunter: Collision Course could have been interesting, entertaining, and maybe even a little exciting had the filmmakers left Irwin in his element, but instead it's dull, lifeless, and amateurishly assembled. Oh, what the hell: Crikey!
Copyright © 2003 by Mark Dujsik. All rights reserved.
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