An astonishingly amateurish enterprise built around bumptious Australian naturalist Steve Irwin, "The Crocodile Hunter" to fans of his TV wildlife documentaries. Irwin's gimmick is his combination aw-shucks demeanor, physical fearlessness and limitless enthusiasm for wildlife, from the cutest baby kangaroos to the most intimidating crocodiles. You have to love a guy who'll bother a massive bird-eating spider with a stick, cooing, "Show us your fangs, darling." The movie's conceit is to loosely integrate footage of Irwin and his wife, Terri, doing their thing collecting snakes, examining lizard poo, rescuing orphaned animals into a low-key thriller involving a missing CIA satellite beacon that winds up in the gullet of a rogue crocodile. Frankly, it doesn't work. The film opens in Langley, Va., as CIA bigwigs realize a precious spy satellite has wandered off course and self-destructed. The rubble lands in the Australian bush, and agents Archer (Kenneth Ransom) and Wheeler (Lachy Hulme) are dispatched to retrieve the baseball-sized beacon filled with sensitive information that must not fall into the wrong hands. A rival CIA agent, comely Australian native Jo Buckley (Kate Beahan), is sent to get the jump on them; she flies ahead incognito and poses as Wheeler and Archer's local guide. Meanwhile, an aggressive crocodile is decimating feisty rancher Brozzie Drewitt's (Magda Szubanski) cattle, and local Fauna and Fisheries ranger Sam Flynn (David Wenham) puts in a call to the Irwins to relocate the beast before someone gets hurt. This is, of course, the same crocodile that swallowed the beacon, so Steve and Terri find themselves hotly pursued by armed agents they mistake for the bane of their existence poachers. In order to preserve the Irwins' spontaneous charm, writer-director-producer John Stainton, who parlayed Irwins' unpretentious appeal into international TV success, kept them in the dark about the movie's plot. The Irwins simply tool around with their unflappable dog, Sui, collecting wildlife and occasionally running into the actors. Unfortunately, the finished product looks like exactly what it is: two different movies (Stainton even shot the fictional and documentary footage in different aspect rations) awkwardly jammed together. The Irwins emerge unscathed, but the fictional footage is unconvincing and criminally badly acted; only Wenham refrains from embarrassing himself. The film's wittiest moment comes before it starts: the familiar MGM lion is replaced by a roaring crocodile when the studio's logo appears.
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- Released: 2002
- Rating: PG
- Review: An astonishingly amateurish enterprise built around bumptious Australian naturalist Steve Irwin, "The Crocodile Hunter" to fans of his TV wildlife documentaries. Irwin's gimmick is his combination aw-shucks demeanor, physical fearlessness and limitless ent… (more)