Review: ‘The Very Excellent Mr. Dundee,’ starring Paul Hogan

March 6, 2021

by Carla Hay

Paul Hogan (center) in “The Very Excellent Mr. Dundee” (Photo courtesy of Lionsgate)

“The Very Excellent Mr. Dundee”

Directed by Dean Murphy 

Culture Representation: Taking place in Los Angeles, Melbourne and London, the comedic film “The Very Excellent Mr. Dundee” features a predominantly white cast (with a few African Americans and Latinos) portraying people who are connected in some way to Australian actor Paul Hogan, who’s best known for his “Crocodile Dundee” movies

Culture Clash: The movie is supposed to be a tongue-in-cheek satire of all the things that go wrong when Hogan tries to make a comeback.

Culture Audience: “The Very Excellent Mr. Dundee” will appeal primarily to people who are fans of Hogan, but everything about this movie is a colossal mistake.

Paul Hogan and John Cleese in “The Very Excellent Mr. Dundee” (Photo courtesy of Lionsgate)

“The Very Excellent Mr. Dundee” is a very meta and misguided sequel in the “Crocodile Dundee” comedy franchise, made famous by star Paul Hogan, beginning with the 1986 blockbuster “Crocodile Dundee,” the first movie in the series. That movie was followed by 1988’s “Crocodile Dundee II” and 2001’s “Crocodile Dundee in Los Angeles,” with each sequel worse than its predecessor. Unfortunately, the “Crocodile Dundee” movie series is like a good meal that went rotten years ago, then retrieved from the trash, and then served up to people who never asked for this stinking mess in the first place.

In the other “Crocodile Dundee” movies, Hogan played the title character as a crocodile hunter from Outback Australia who finds himself out of his comfort zone in urban environments. In “The Very Excellent Mr. Dundee” (directed by Dean Murphy, who co-wrote the movie’s embarrassing screenplay with Robert Mond), Hogan ditches the Crocodile Dundee persona and portrays himself as a has-been actor who hasn’t been able to surpass his “Crocodile Dundee” success with anything else, and he’s persuaded to make a comeback.

You just know it’s going to be a dumb movie when Hogan’s Paul character is supposed to be getting knighted by the Queen of England. That’s something that would not happen to Hogan in real life. But it’s used as a silly plot device in the “race against time” aspect that comes toward the end of the film, which takes place mostly in Los Angeles, but also partially in Melbourne and in London.

It’s repeated throughout “The Very Excellent Mr. Dundee” that the first “Crocodile Dundee” movie was the highest-grossing independent film at that time. It’s mentioned so many times that it’s irritating, as if the filmmakers want to desperately remind viewers why Hogan was a big movie star back in the 1980s. In the movie though, Paul has a not-very-convincing “aw, shucks” humble attitude about his fame. His character claims that he’s been trying to retire for the past 20 years. Not really, because the real Paul Hogan did this very corny mess of a film as a possible comeback vehicle.

In “The Very Excellent Mr. Dundee,” Paul is a bachelor who lives in Los Angeles with his Golden Retriever dog Paddy as his only companion. The movie didn’t get too meta, because there’s no mention of the real-life Hogan’s messy divorces, including one from his former “Crocodile Dundee” co-star Linda Kozlowski. In “The Very Excellent Mr. Dundee,” Paul’s manager/agent is Angie Douglas (played by Rachael Carpani), whose late father used to be Paul’s manager and was the founder of the Douglas Management Team.

Angie is very excited to tell Paul that in six weeks, he will be knighted by the Queen of England. In the lead-up to this big event. Angie thinks it would be a good idea for Paul to get as much publicity and job opportunities as possible. This comeback attempt results in Paul making a series of disastrous public appearances that are supposed to be funny for this movie but the comedy is just dull and poorly executed.

Paul has a son his early 20s called Chase (played by Jacob Elordi), whose vaguely written and brief role in the movie just seems to be about displaying his toned physique, since Chase is shown leading a workout class in Paul’s backyard. Paul and Chase do not have a convincing father/son bond in the film, even though they’re supposed to have a good relationship with each other. Therefore, it seems that Elordi was just put in the film so the movie could attract viewers who know him for “The Kissing Booth” movies.

Paul also has a 9-year-old granddaughter named Lucy (played by Charlotte Stent), who lives in Australia. (Lucy’s parents are not seen, heard or mentioned in the film.) In one scene in the movie, Paul does a video chat with Lucy, who is rehearsing for her school play. Lucy and Paul adore each other, but she’s a little sad that he won’t be able to see her in her play because it’s on the same day of his knighthood ceremony in London.

Several real-life celebrities portray themselves in this movie. Some have supporting roles, while others have quick cameos. Olivia Newton-John has a supporting role as a friend of Paul’s. She invites Paul and Angie to a “Grease” charity event that she’s hosting with John Travolta. The real Travolta was smart enough to stay away from this movie, so don’t expect any surprise cameos from him. A fictional nun named Sister Mary Murphy (played by Dorothy Adams) runs the charity that’s supposed to benefit from the “Grease” event.

John Cleese does a parody of himself, as a washed-up comedian who’s become a rideshare driver to pay his bills. Guess who ends up being Paul’s driver in this movie? Cleese’s immense talent is squandered in this very tacky role that makes him look like a fool. Chevy Chase portrays himself in scenes where he meets up with Paul in restaurants, offers advice, and gets more praise and attention than Paul does. All of these scenes are uninteresting and often awkward.

“The Very Excellent Mr. Dundee” pokes fun at Hogan’s “has-been status” in a scene where he’s visiting a movie studio lot while a group of tourists are nearby on a guided tour. The tour guide points out Hogan to the tourists, but they don’t care. This happens a few more times in other places, but this stale and unimaginative joke wasn’t even that funny the first time it was in the movie.

Another running gag in the movie that falls flat is that a group of fast-talking producers keep approaching Paul in various places to persuade him to do another “Crocodile Dundee” movie. One of these producers suggests that Will Smith could play Paul’s son in this proposed movie. Paul says no for a reason that’s obvious, but no one but Paul says it out loud in these meetings: Will Smith is black. When Paul says it, the producers act horrified and tell Paul that he comes across as racist.

Paul being misunderstood as “racist” is used in another badly written scene, where John drives Paul to the “Grease” charity event, but John accidentally drops Paul off at the fictional Black Talent Awards, which is supposed to be like the BET Awards. In a live TV interview on the red carpet, Paul says to the reporter: “I’m here to help the little people. I’m here to help those less fortunate than I am.”

Naturally, Paul’s condescending remarks come across as racist. And since he said these comments live on TV, he gets immediate backlash on social media and on the red carpet. Before things get more hostile for Paul at this award show, John sheepishly goes up to Paul and tells him that the “Grease” charity event is actually at another building nearby. The movie makes Paul look so clueless that he didn’t notice all the Black Talent Awards logos when he arrived on the red carpet.

More mishaps occur that make Paul look like he’s rude to unsuspecting people, but they’re really just “accidents.” There’s an incident where he’s accused of being cruel to tourist children. And then at the “Grease” charity event, Paul ends up on stage, and there’s a disruption involving a flying object that hits Sister Mary, and he gets blamed for it. All of these gags are so dumb, contrived and the epitome of horrendous slapstick.

“The Very Excellent Mr. Dundee” also introduces a very annoying and unnecessary character named Luke Clutterbuck (played by Nate Torrence), a self-described “mama’s boy” who’s originally from Indiana. Luke was a wedding photographer in Indiana, until he decided to move to Los Angeles to become part of the paparazzi. Paul first meets Luke when Luke falls out of a tree in Paul’s backyard, in Luke’s desperate attempt to get paparazzi photos. Luke gets more and more insufferable as the story goes on.

Wayne Knight portrays a version of himself, as a theater actor who asks Paul for a temporary place to stay because Wayne’s wife Carol (played by Julia Morris) has kicked Wayne out of their house. Wayne is rehearsing for an upcoming musical, so there are some excruciating scenes of Paul being interrupted or frustrated by Wayne loudly singing or doing other musical-related things in the house at inconvenient moments. It’s the type of comedy that most sitcoms would reject.

Australian actors Luke Hemsworth, Costas Mandylor and Luke Bracey all have cameos as themselves doing red-carpet interviews. Australian comedian Jim Jeffries also portrays himself in a quick appearance. They either praise or give mild insults about Paul. Nothing is funny in these bits.

And it should come as no surprise that bachelor Paul gets a potential love interest. Olivia sets him up on a blind date with someone she knows named Ella (played by Kerry Armstrong). Paul quips, “I haven’t been on a date since a man walked on the moon.” That’s news to Hogan’s real-life ex-wives.

“The Very Excellent Mr. Dundee” is so badly made that it seems like many of the celebrities in the movie might have committed to it without seeing the script first and/or did the movie as a big favor to Hogan. No one should tell Hogan when he should retire. But “The Very Excellent Mr. Dundee” is such an atrocious dud, it’s all the proof anyone needs that the “Crocodile Dundee” movie series needs to be retired once and for all.

Lionsgate released “The Very Excellent Mr. Dundee” in select U.S. cinemas and on digital and VOD on December 11, 2020. The movie was released on Blu-ray and DVD on February 12, 2021.

Review: ‘2 Hearts,’ starring Jacob Elordi, Tiera Skovbye, Adan Canto and Radha Mitchell

October 18, 2020

by Carla Hay

Tiera Skovbye and Jacob Elordi in “2 Hearts” (Photo courtesy of Freestyle Digital Media)

“2 Hearts”

Directed by Lance Hool

Culture Representation: Taking place in various parts of North America, the romantic drama “2 Hearts” has a predominantly white cast (with some Latinos, African Americans and Asians) representing the middle-class and wealthy.

Culture Clash: Two couples from two different generations experience health problems that have far-reaching effects on them and other people.

Culture Audience: “2 Hearts” will appeal primarily to people who like very sappy tearjerkers.

Adan Canto and Radha Mitchell in “2 Hearts” (Photo courtesy of Freestyle Digital Media)

Even though the romantic drama “2 Hearts” is based on a true story, there’s a cloying sheen to the movie that makes the people look too glossy to be authentic. The entire movie looks like actors trying their best to re-enact what they think the real people actually went through, instead of giving naturalistic performances that transform these actors into believable people on screen. It doesn’t help that much of the dialogue sounds like it’s from a TV soap opera or a Hallmark TV movie. “2 Hearts” certainly has an inspiring message. It’s just unfortunate that it’s delivered in a very uninspired and trite manner by a very corny screenplay and some awkward acting.

According to the production notes for “2 Hearts” (a movie that takes place in various parts of North America over five decades), the movie originally had what director Lance Hool says was “a very long and accurate screenplay” that went through several rewrites and was eventually rejected. Lance Hool’s daughter Veronica Hool and Robin U. Russin ended up writing the screenplay that was used for the movie. And it’s that screenplay which is the movie’s weakest link.

Lance Hool produced “2 Hearts” with his brother Conrad Hool, and they both run the movie’s production company Silver Lion Films. Conrad’s daughter Carla Hool was the casting director for “2 Hearts.” It’s unknown if having all of these family members involved in making “2 Hearts” could have clouded their objectivity in critiquing another family member’s work on the screenplay. But somewhere along the line, the producers didn’t have enough fortitude to take a good, hard look at the screenplay written by Veronica Hool and Russin and ask for major improvements before this film got made.

The entire movie has major tonal problems, by trying to be a screwball romantic comedy in some scenes, and yet in other scenes, it’s a weepy medical drama. “2 Hearts” is mostly a drama, but its attempts at comedy fall very hard and very flat. The decision to have one of the characters narrate the film in an irritating way is an example of how it’s sometimes better for movies to “show, not tell.”

And there’s a “twist” in the movie that is completely unnecessary. At best, this twist looks like the screenwriters needed more scenes to fill up the movie and make it closer to a typical feature length of 90 to 120 minutes. At worst, this twist is smarmy emotional manipulation, just for the sake of shocking an audience and making sensitive viewers cry. By the time the twist is revealed in the last third of the movie, astute viewers have already figured out how the two couples who are the movie’s four main characters are connected to each other.

“2 Hearts” switches back and forth in telling the stories of these two couples, but the movie is narrated by Chris Gregory (played by Jacob Elordi), the male partner from the younger couple. Chris is a tall, good-looking, athletic guy who’s 18 or 19 years old, with a goofy personality and a “puppy dog” type of enthusiasm toward life. At the beginning of the movie, Chris is seen being rushed into an emergency room. His girlfriend Samantha, nicknamed Sam (played by Tiera Skovbye), and Chris’ older brother Colin (played by Jordan Burtchett) are frantically running next to the gurney that’s carrying Chris into an examination room, until Sam and Colin aren’t allowed to go any further into the room.

What caused this medical emergency? And what were the results after Chris got medical treatment at the hospital? Those answers don’t come until the last third of the movie, but from then on, the movie has already telegraphed that Chris is not as healthy as he first appears to be in the first two-thirds of the film.

And then, when the movie introduces viewers to the other couple in the story, and it’s shown that the male partner in that couple also has health problems, it’s very easy to see where this movie is going to go. Perhaps if “2 Hearts” didn’t show Chris’ medical crisis so early in the story, the connection between the couples wouldn’t be so obvious.

Until then, it’s an often-tedious march to that inevitable “reveal,” which is not the same as the manipulative “twist” in the story. The “reveal” is obvious and necessary. The “twist” is not obvious and is very unnecessary. Until the “twist” and the “reveal” happen, the majority of “2 Hearts” is about showing how these two couples, who don’t know each other, met and fell in love with their respective partners.

Chris and Sam, the couple from the emergency-room scene, met because they’re students at Loyola University, a Jesuit college in New Orleans, not to be confused with Loyola University Maryland in Baltimore, which is Chris’ hometown. When Chris and Sam meet in 2007, he is a freshman, and she is a senior at the university. They both come from loving, middle-class families.

The other two lovebirds are Jorge Bolivar (played by Adan Canto) and Leslie Folk (played by Radha Mitchell), who met on a Pan Am flight in the 1970s, when Leslie was a flight attendant and Jorge was a passenger. Jorge comes from a wealthy Cuban family that owns a mega-successful rum company. (The Jorge character is based on the real-life Jorge Bacardi.)

Jorge and Leslie, who were both in their 30s when they met, have a “meet cute” moment when Jorge asks Leslie to hold his hand during takeoff because he pretends to be nervous about flying. After some hesitation, she grants his request. And it’s clear from the way that they look at each other that it won’t take them long to get together.

When the subject of drinking alcohol comes up during the flight (since Jorge is supposedly nervous about flying), Leslie tells Jorge that her favorite brand of rum is Bolivar, and he gives her his business card. That’s how she finds out that he comes from the wealthy family that owns the Bolivar rum company. Who really knows if that happened in real life? But it’s one of those moments that looks like it was created for the movie.

Although Jorge and Leslie are both based in Miami, they have a long-distance courtship because they both travel a lot for their jobs. As soon as they begin dating, Jorge often shows up unannounced at destinations where Leslie will be, and he expects her to drop any plans she had so that she can spend all of her free time hanging out with him. While many people would be creeped-out by this presumptive and stalker-ish behavior, Leslie finds it charming and romantic. It probably doesn’t hurt that Jorge is handsome and rich.

And Jorge doesn’t tell Leslie his medical secret until long after they start dating. He’s had a serious lung disease since childhood. His lung problem is so serious that doctors had told his parents that Jorge wouldn’t live past the age of 12. Jorge has had numerous surgeries, and parts of his lungs were removed when he was an undergraduate student at Stanford University. After Jorge and Leslie get married, they have problems conceiving children. (In real life, Jorge was diagnosed with primary ciliary dyskinesia when he was in his 50s, but prior to that, he was misdiagnosed as having cystic fibrosis.)

Chris and Sam’s romance is more carefree than Jorge and Leslie’s. That is, until Chris ends up in the hospital. Chris and Sam’s “meet cute” moment happens as he accidentally bumps into her while he’s leaving a classroom and as she’s entering the same room. Chris makes a profuse apology, which she accepts, and he looks at her as if it’s “love at first sight,” as she makes her way to a seat.

It’s a scene that’s sure to induce eyerolls because it’s so mawkish, as Chris literally stops in front of the class to stare at her. He’s so entranced that the teacher asks Chris if he is staying or leaving. Sam notices that Chris is staring at her, and she smiles in the way that women do when they know that someone is immediately infatuated with them.

The next time Chris and Sam see each other, he literally bumps into her again. This time, it’s in a hallway, where Sam is putting up flyers for a fledgling student group she’s started called Safety Patrol. It’s a volunteer rideshare service for the university’s students to call if they need a safe ride somewhere. Chris gives Sam a mild critique of the Safety Patrol flyers that she’s put up on a bulletin board, by telling her that the flyers should be less intimidating and more welcoming.

It’s his way of flirting with Sam, who already can tell that Chris is very attracted to her. Chris ends up being the first volunteer to join the Safety Patrol. It also motivates Chris to get his driver’s license. And through their Safety Patrol activities, Sam and Chris get closer to each other and fall in love.

When Chris and Sam first met, she was casually dating someone named Brad, who is never seen or heard in the movie. Sam and Brad didn’t have a serious-enough relationship where they were committed to each other. Brad is mentioned a few times in the movie, and then he’s never mentioned again.

Sam also opens up to Chris about why the Safety Patrol program is important to her. Two years before, Sam’s mother was in a serious car accident that left her in a coma. Sam prayed that if her mother got out of the coma and recovered, Sam would do everything possible to help other people. Her mother came out of the coma and recovered, and Sam came up with the Safety Patrol idea as a way to keep her promise to God.

Chris and Sam’s relationship provides most of the movie’s comic relief, but Chris is written as a character who tries too hard to be funny, so his personality can become grating after a while. There’s a scene where Chris and Sam tell each other what kind of music they have on their iPods, and they alternate between teasing and praising each other about some of their musical choices. It’s meant to be cute and humorous, but it just comes across as very contrived and awkward.

There’s also an extensive Safety Patrol scene where Sam and Chris pick up three different passengers at different times on the same night. All three passengers are eventually crammed into the back of the car: a drunk sorority girl (played by Georgia Bradner), who inevitably vomits; a stoner surfer dude (played by Neil Webb); and an uptight nerd (played by Doralynn Mui), who refuses to let anyone touch the suitcase she has. This is where the movie tries to be a screwball comedy, but it doesn’t fit the tone of the rest of the story.

Chris’ often-annoying narration constantly interjects in scenes and disrupts the flow of the movie. It’s the equivalent of someone sitting near you and making constant, unsolicited comments while you’re trying to watch a movie. And because Chris is written as a goofball, a lot of his corny humor doesn’t work well for the more serious scenes that he narrates. It’s not the actor’s fault. It’s the fault of how this substandard screenplay was written.

In addition to their health problems that reach a crisis level, Chris and Jorge have something else in common: They both have tense relationships with their demanding fathers. Chris’ father Eric (played by Tahmoh Penikett) is the type of parent who, instead of comforting Chris when Chris found out that he didn’t get accepted into his first-choice university, tells Chris: “Maybe you should’ve worked harder at it.” Jorge’s father Jose (played by Steve Bacic) expects Jorge to go on strenuous business trips that aren’t necessarily good for Jorge’s health.

Jose also doesn’t really approve of Leslie because she isn’t Hispanic. And when Leslie and Jorge get married, Jorge’s parents aren’t at the wedding. It’s not stated if Jorge’s parents refused an invitation or simply weren’t invited, but it’s clear that his parents didn’t approve of the marriage. Jorge’s mother, who is barely seen in the movie, appears briefly in a hospital scene when Jorge had his lung surgery while he was a Stanford student.

Chris is the youngest of three sons. He and his older brother Colin (the middle child) both attend Loyola University, which was not Chris’ first choice. Eldest son John (played by Anthony Konechny) is the “golden child” who attends an unnamed university that’s considered more prestigious, and this university was Chris’ first choice.

Chris had high hopes of going to the same university as John, who is clearly the favorite child of their father. Chris’ mother Grace (played by Kari Matchett) is the type of parent who is compassionate and tries not to treat one child as being “better” than the other. Not surprisingly, Chris is closer to his mother than he is to his father. Despite this family tension, Chris’ family is still tight-knit and supportive of each other.

The acting in “2 Hearts” is mediocre at best, although Canto does try very hard to show range as someone who is stricken with a very serious illness. However, the way that many lines are written in this movie just reek of something that could have been in a TV soap opera. There’s a scene where Jorge says that Leslie reminds him of a peanut, so he calls her “my peanut” as a term of endearment. Try not to retch.

To its credit, the movie makes great use of showing romantic locations. There are many scenes that take place on gorgeous beaches (such as in Hawaii) or luxurious resort getaways, thanks to all the traveling that Jorge and Leslie and do and Jorge’s ability to stay at top-tier hotels. But these are superficial visuals that can’t quite make up for all the ways that “2 Hearts” is lacking in doing justice to this inspiring story.

The most problematic part of the “2 Hearts” screenplay is that unnecessary “twist.” It cheapens the movie’s message, and it’s borderline insulting to the real life-or-death situations that were experienced by the people on whom this story is based. And ultimately, it sinks what could have been a much better movie if it had a quality screenplay and a more talented cast.

Freestyle Digital Media released “2 Hearts” in U.S. cinemas on October 16, 2020.