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The Crocodile Hunter: Collision Course

(2002)  1/2 Pg
89 min. MGM. Director: John Stainton. Cast: Steve Irwin, Terri Irwin, Magda Szubanski, David Wenham, Lachy Hulme.

Steve Irwin a.k.a. The Crocodile Hunter a.k.a. Serious Yahoo came to prominence on television, hosting various incarnations of his confrontational animal-wrangling derring-do. His TV presence is, I suppose, the Australian equivalent of Jackass. It's also sort of like Johnny Knoxville's MTV stunt show. Anywho, now Steve and his "Sheila" (that's Steve-O speak for anything female)—wife Terri Irwin—have "collided" with the big screen in The Crocodile Hunter: Collision Course. It was inevitable. Steve could only dance with so many snakes and wrassle so many crocs (who, by the way, rule) before he had to face CIA agents searching for the metallic core to an exploded spy satellite. It's the circle of life, my friends. The circle of life.

With Ed Wood efficiency, director John Stainton has spackled together pseudo-documentary nature footage of the husband-wife wildlife crusaders (displayed in a TV-shaped aspect ratio) with a CIA intrigue plot shot in widescreen. I can't emphasize enough the cinematic innovation of creating a feature-length movie plot entirely out of "pickup" shots. But perhaps if I blurt "Crikey!" a few dozen times, it will begin to sink in.

I'll cop to the footage of the Irwins being fun in a lame-brained, spoon-feed-nature-to-short-attention-span-kids sort of way. I have no real gripe with Steve, who breathlessly babbles—to spiders, kangaroos, snakes, crocodiles, and, yes, the camera—until one must ask, "What is this man talking about?" and tune him out. Nor do I begrudge Terri, whose job entails doing the heavy lifting and (I presume) administering powerful anti-depressants to Steve-O. They make a fair-dinkum couple of mates. But they do this on TV. For free. I'm pretty sure that if you played your cards right you could watch them any time of day or night on your VCR. For free.

So what are you paying for? The adventures of globe-hopping community-theatre escapees—I mean, CIA agents—who, while tracking down that satellite beacon with the power to "change the infrastructure of the entire world," must contend with an ill-tempered, sneering crocodile poacher named Rosie (Magda Szubanski of Babe fame) who here brings to mind John McGiver if he had breasts and spent a whole picture trying to work a bit of seafood out of his back teeth. These scenes make the porn industry look like one big Shakespeare festival.

On the bright side, the Irwins' fees will be donated to wildlife conservation, which shows they really love animals. Another way you know they really love animals is that they care enough to go grab, wrestle, and taunt them with thick Australian invectives (at one point, with no apparent irony, Steve explains a particularly aggressive crocodile he's been taunting with the observation "He must've been tormented by the locals"). I kid the Irwins, who really do love wildlife with infectious energy, even in this horribly misguided context. But their Barnum-meets-the-Australian-zoo brand of animal R&D seems dangerous enough without lassoing small aircraft, as Irwin does here.

If Steve is set on this Marlin-Perkins-meets-Evel Knievel trip, he's ready to evolve to the next evolutionary rung: taunting celebrities in the outback of Beverly Hills. I, for one, would pay to see Irwin bag a Bette Midler, hoist his fists in the air, and let out a good "Crikey!"

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