Sue Charlton (Linda Kozlowski) is a journalist for a New York newspaper who is spending time in Australia looking for stories, and she thinks she has found a great one when word reaches her of a man who survived a crocodile attack in the Bush, losing a leg and crawling back to his home town a week later. It might sound too good to be true, but Sue is convinced and before long she has landed in a helicopter at the tiny town and greeted by best mate of the victim, Walter Reilly (John Meillon). After checking into the hotel she waits for her story to arrive and that night in the local pub, she is faced with the grand entrance of one Mick "Crocodile" Dundee (Paul Hogan) - who has two legs...
A big hit in Australia, Crocodile Dundee seemed an unlikely candidate for worldwide success, and it makes you wonder how much faith Paramount, who bought the rights, had in the film when they opted to put quotation marks around the Crocodile part of the title so audiences outside of its homeland didn't think it was about an actual crocodile. They needn't have worried, because not only did it become one of the biggest Australian movies of all time, but it made a lot of money. How odd, then, that nowadays it's treated as a relic of the eighties that some are slightly embarrassed that they enjoyed quite as much as they did.
However, don't listen to those naysayers, as the film still holds up remarkably well if you don't allow cynicism to take over. Most of the admittedly, doggedly unpretentious charm of the production is down to the man who conceived it, Mr Paul Hogan, a popular comedian on Australian television (he also had a measure of British success when Channel Four broadcast his sketch show, and there were those lager adverts, of course). Hogan was never going to be a performer with astonishing range, but he had conjured up a role that suited him to a tee and he essayed it with winning skill.
The first half is the Australian half, where Sue is taken into the Bush by Dundee to see where he suffered his crocodile attack (the story had been exaggerated somewhat, but he does show her the scar on his leg). In the second half, Sue returns the favour by taking him to New York City where their "fish out of water" roles are reversed. Although there could have been a clunky gear change between these two parts, the filmmakers ensure that it all runs smoothly thanks to the way they keep the gags coming and let the relationship between Dundee and Sue develop, along predictable lines perhaps, but they carry it off.
During that first half Sue is put out that Dundee thinks she can't look after herself and ventures off on her own, but her protector follows her at a discreet distance and ends up saving her from a hungry crocodile. This could have been a wearisome "women know thy place" plotline were it not for the fact that Sue has to look after Dundee once they reach the U.S.A. and a neat balance is settled on. Dundee thinks that New York must be the "friendliest place on Earth" with all those millions of people electing to live side by side, and while we think we know better, although not as patronising as Sue's boyfriend Richard (Mark Blum), the famous subway finale proves him to be right when the cityfolk help bring the romance together. The Tarzan references are not lost on the audience, as Dundee was a creation both archetypal and novel, and his film shouldn't be consigned to a category along with Rubik's Cubes and deely boppers. It's not Picnic at Hanging Rock, but it was never meant to be. Music by Peter Best.