Crocodile Dundee (1986) — Pretty much all we knew about Australia for a while there

“That’s not a knife. THAT’S a knife.”

Justin’s rating: I will never disparage the Boot

Justin’s review: The (at the time) controversial 1995 episode of the Simpsons where the family visited the country of Australia contained a memorable little speech by Phil Hartman’s character where he said, “As I’m sure you remember, in the late 1980s, the US experienced a short-lived infatuation with Australian culture. For some bizarre reason, the Aussies thought this would be a permanent thing. Of course, it wasn’t. Anyway, the Down Under fad fizzled and the diplomatic climate turned absolutely frosty.”

I always felt that was pretty on-the-nose because I vividly remember the one or two years when Australia shot to the top of pop culture — and it all kicked off with Crocodile Dundee. People went bananas for this film, and it (and its sequel) quickly became comedy staples in our household. But looking back, I don’t think that this could’ve worked at any other time, because a fish-out-of-water story requires the audience to be somewhat ignorant about the unique environment that fish comes from.

And in Crocodile Dundee, that environment is the odd landscape of northern Australia. Magazine reporter Sue Charlton (Linda Kozlowski) is assigned the task of traveling to a small town to write a piece on a local legend — Mick “Crocodile” Dundee (Paul Hogan). There, she finds that Mick is unlike anyone she’s ever met, and after he’s saved her from a croc attack, she finds herself starting to swoon in his general direction.

Convincing Mick to come back to New York City under the pretense of continuing the feature story, Sue is kind of blind to how much she’s falling for him. Meanwhile, Dundee uses his skills, charm, and laidback Aussie attitude to tackle the dangers and challenges of the big city. There may or may not be a kiss somewhere toward the end.

I know it’s a movie that might’ve been too popular for its own good, prompting that sort of natural backlash where people don’t find it cool to like it any more, but this is an effortlessly fun watch from one of my favorite decades. Paul Hogan absolutely owns this movie as Dundee, with his laconic sense of humor (the dead kangaroo shooting scene is amazing) and capable nature on display. Yet I like how the filmmakers really made him a man of gentle strength, willing to protect the vulnerable and showing respect to the natives and foreigners alike. It’s because of this character trait that his relationship with Sue doesn’t seem one-sided; she’s capable in her own way and isn’t railroaded by a larger-than-life personality.

Beyond the quotable memes, Crocodile Dundee is a genuinely good movie that I think most people today forget exists. Not everyone, though. As I was writing this up, I paused to go tell my wife we should show the kids this movie tonight, and she got SO excited about it. Mick — and Australia — still has fans even in 2022.

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