The Crocodile Hunter: Collision Course

on July 12, 2002 by Kim Williamson
   Screenwriter Holly Goldberg Sloan ("The Big Green") received a bloody nose bite from a baby alligator at a post-screening Hollywood media party for "The Crocodile Hunter: Collision Course," and a moviegoer might say that it's the closest she got to any sort of authentic involvement with the film. It's an odd concoction of halves: Part of the tale of antic Aussie conservationist Steve Irwin is pure documentary footage, another is added fiction material concerning a CIA attempt after a satellite crashes to earth to track down a data capsule -- which has been eaten by the very crocodile that Irwin and mate Terri Irwin are trying to capture and relocate away from humans.

   The resulting longform variant of Irwin's cable efforts ("The Crocodile Hunter," "Croc Files") carries edge-of-the-seat believability in its documentary scenes, and zero in its fiction scenes, which reportedly became part of the mix after MGM picked up theatrical rights. First-time director John Stainton (who helms Irwin's Animal Planet cable series) seems quite nimble about putting the camera in the right place -- a feat, considering that can't-take-a-cue wild animals are involved -- but he evinces no understanding of narrative. However flimsy Sloan's script (based on Stainton's obviously flimsy story idea), the director also displays no ability to work with actors; under his tutelage, the likes of Magda Szubanski ("Babe") and oft-honored Down Under thesp David Wenham ("Better Than Sex") come off as more cartoony than Irwin, who is always cartoony as himself, with his eye-popped facial contortions and "Crikey!" exclamations.

   But darn lovable, and that's where "The Crocodile Hunter: Collision Course" finds its best asset, in the form of the wildlife crusader himself. Irwin's enthusiams about saving animals is downright infectious, and his close encounters often literally hair raising. However ineptly made, "Crocodile Hunter" is a movie that diverse audiences will like -- but only because Steve Irwin is in it. Starring Steve Irwin and Terri Irwin. Directed by John Stainton. Written by Holly Goldberg Sloan. Produced by Arnold Rifkin, Judi Bailey and John Stainton. An MGM release. Adventure. Rated PG for action violence/peril and mild language. Running time: 90 min

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