Remember the Crocodile Dundee films? I don’t, but that’s because I’ve not yet seen them. Diving into The Very Excellent Mr. Dundee feels like a bit of a mistake then, especially since I’ve not seen the leading man’s most prominent role. A victory lap for what was, quite frankly, a rather small win, The Very Excellent Mr. Dundee pools together the washed-up Paul Hogan, as he plays a fictionalised version of himself, mingling with celebrities and causing all sorts of issues when he causes controversy over the casting of Dundee Jr in the latest studio reboot. Misguided, ill-timed and toiling in its own obscurity, the film and its leading man share quite a lot in common.
After a series of misunderstandings, Paul Hogan finds himself on the backfoot, clawing back at his pending knighthood. Accidentally insulting just about any race, religious denomination and person in Australia, he struggles to pull his name out of the mud, and back into the spotlight. It’s amazing to see the pity parade that goes on throughout The Very Excellent Mr. Dundee, which spends much of its running time circling round to the fact that nobody remembers nor cares for Crocodile Dundee. There’s a ring of truth to this setting, but beyond that foundation is a very rough ride indeed. Barely eligible, unfunny prospects that coax Hogan into more futile, ridiculous moments that feel like they’re there solely to spin a rather unconventional, surprisingly dull narrative. Some of the jokes would work if they weren’t thrown in with such a ham-fisted approach, and that’s all the fault of director Dean Murphy.
A whole slew of celebrity faces who, I presume, just wanted a bit of work in a brief period between projects, offer up nothing of any interest. John Cleese, Wayne Knight, Chevy Chase, Jim Jefferies and Olivia Newton-John all make sudden appearances for no particular reason. It steals the spotlight from Hogan, who does manage a somewhat engaged performance. He takes the various knocks and bumps to his person rather quickly, and soon the narrative opens up into an arc of comedic redemption. Harvey Weinstein jokes, high-speed pursuits where John Cleese yells of how much he loves prostitutes, and a paparazzi whose sole goal seems to be snapping a shot of Kim Kardashian. As much as it should be droll and wry, it comes across as entirely bland and trying far too hard.
Outdated humour from a washed-up cast, The Very Excellent Mr. Dundee is a humourless piece crafted entirely on misunderstandings. The very obscure Mr. Dundee makes a fumbling of his return to the big screen in this attempt at catapulting himself into our minds once more. Serving equally as an advertisement for the few sights Australia has to offer, along with reminding us of the short-lived phenomenon Hogan had to offer, The Very Excellent Mr. Dundee tries to do everything from Broadway act to indulgent political comedy, and it does nothing in-between all that well either. It’s rather embarrassing, and it’s rather easy to feel bad for Hogan, but at least he’s back on the screen, I’m just not entirely convinced it was worth it considering how awful this film is.