I’m exhausted, having just returned from viewing The Crocodile Hunter: Collision Course. Watching Steve Irwin do his "Animal Planet" thing with such relentless energy took a lot out of me. Crikey! Get a load of this bloke. He’s an outrageous combination of St. Francis of Assisi and Indiana Jones -- with a touch of Dr. Dolittle thrown in for good measure. It’s a shame this movie doesn’t do him justice. Scenes without Irwin fall flat as notes sung by "American Idol" rejects.
But when Irwin wrestles those monster crocodiles, seduces venomous snakes, or plays with deadly spiders, he’s a dynamic screen presence – and the story doesn’t matter at all. As he talks with the animals he’s trying to save, his respect for them shines through. Irwin calls a snake "sweetheart," tells a spider how beautiful she is, and urges a croc to "calm down, mate." His only complaint? "It’s so dry here that flies are trying to get water from my eyes."
The famous Aussie adventurer shows less patience with poachers. They’re his villains. In this case, he mistakes American special agents, who have been sent to the Outback to retrieve a top secret satellite beacon, as poachers. Giving them "a Steve-O education," he makes sure they won’t bother him or the croc (who swallowed the beacon) ever again.
Helping Irwin with his animal rescue mission are his wife Terri (in real-life, too) and his dog Sui (ditto). During most of their animal encounters, Terri seems as calm as Irwin is animated. And, at times, Sui appears more sensible than her human friends. She’s the only one who’s smart enough to hide when things get too dicey.
In a highly unsympathetic role, Magda Szubanski (Babe) portrays a cantankerous rancher out to get revenge on a crocodile for eating her livestock. Scrunching up her face and glaring at everyone, she goes too far over the top for me. During all her scenes, I couldn’t help thinking, "Let’s get back to Irwin." But I admit I felt the same way every time the movie dwelt on something or someone other than our hero.
Because of Irwin’s charisma and enthusiasm, I hate to criticize The Crocodile Hunter. How often do viewers see a film showcasing a real person who not only loves his job but also deserves praise for doing such noble work? Still, a movie should fit together in some reasonable way – and this one doesn’t. In certain places, it’s downright annoying. For example, Irwin speaks directly to the camera as he goes about his business, and the screen becomes smaller during his scenes, probably to simulate a television documentary. A wide screen is used for other sequences – all too gimmicky for my viewing pleasure. And the silly spy-satellite plot should be part of an entirely different movie – one I would definitely avoid seeing.
(Released by MGM and rated "PG" for action violence/peril and mild language.)