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Aussie animal enthusiast a parody of himself

By Christy Lemire, The Associated Press
Wednesday July 10, 2002

‘The Crocodile Hunter: Collision Course’


You may be wondering, as I did: Does the world really need a feature-length movie about crocodile hunter Steve Irwin? Especially after three installments of Paul Hogan’s “Crocodile Dundee” series, each of which was lamer than the last? 

And the answer, surprisingly, is: yes. 

Because “The Crocodile Hunter: Collision Course” is the laugh-out-loud comedy of the summer — mainly when it doesn’t mean to be. 

The movie expands on Irwin’s TV series on cable’s Animal Planet, in which he wrestles crocs and other Australian creatures and explains their behavior in manic, animated detail. In between, he injects his message of wildlife conservation. 

Irwin is good-looking and likable, but it’s his broad Australian accent and infectious enthusiasm that make him so much fun to watch. His protracted soliloquies are often so over the top, he’s like a “Saturday Night Live” parody of himself. 

“What an honor to share territory — share space — with such a BEAU-tiful creature!” he exclaims after tangling with a deadly king brown snake — and every venomous snake is “BEAU-tiful!” 

His other favorite word is “Crikey!” which he shouts when he’s excited or in danger, and he uses it so many times, it could be a drinking game. This is a family movie, though, and kids will enjoy gross-out thrills from the many slithering and crawling creatures. 

Irwin’s American wife, Terri, gamely goes along for the ride, but she’s so calm by comparison, she’s practically comatose. With her lifeless, B-movie line delivery, she’s also the source of most of the unintentional laughs. 

Terri explains in a deadpan monotone that breeding season is “a real bummer” for the male bird-eating spider ... because the female eats him soon after they mate! 

“It seems pretty harsh,” Irwin adds, his eyes bulging, “but THIS is nature’s way.” 

But the downtimes are so flat, it makes me wonder whether director John Stainton and writer Holly Goldberg Sloan made them intentionally bad, just so we’d look forward to seeing Irwin again. 

The mind-boggling, paper-thin story line has something to do with the data recorder from a fallen satellite landing in Far North Queensland, where a 12-foot crocodile promptly chomps on it. The CIA sends undercover agents Wheeler (Lachy Hulme) and Archer (Kenneth Ransom), who’ve barely strayed from their desk jobs, to retrieve it. But cantankerous rancher Brozzie Drewett (Magda Szubanski, Mrs. Hoggett from the “Babe” movies) also is after the crocodile for nabbing her cattle, and has a shotgun constantly cradled in her arms to blast the creature. 

So Steve and Terri are sent to rescue the crocodile — one of the movie’s more thrilling segments — and place it in a safer environment. But the clueless G-men think Steve and Terri are after the data recorder, too, and suspect they’re spies. 

None of that really matters, though. 

“The Crocodile Hunter: Collision Course” is all about Irwin and his goofy shtick, and the filmmakers wisely devote most of the screen time to him.