Rowdy Aussie naturalist Steve Irwin was always a big character on a small screen. Now his encounters with poisonous snakes and bouts of crocodile wrestling on a host of successful TV series have got him into the movies.
Any doubts about his acting abilities have been neatly sidestepped in this comedy adventure because director John Stainton preserves the straight-to-camera technique of the TV shows, meaning Irwin can gush educationally about the fauna to the audience while the rather sketchy plot stumbles around him.
In fictional terms, Irwin and his wife Terri are supposed to be filming a documentary in North Queensland when they get a call to relocate a crocodile that has been eating grouchy farmer Magda Szubanski's cattle. The croc has also swallowed a vital part of a crashed American satellite, so two CIA agents, along with an Aussie operative of a rival agency, are sent into the bush to retrieve it. While Irwin gets into entertaining, Jaws-like, scraps with the beastie, the ill-prepared Yanks are regularly foiled by nature in the raw.The red-faced Irwin is exhilarating to watch. Every sentence has a "crikey" in it, he is brave to the point of foolhardiness, and he never stops communicating his excitement about the world around him. The thinly developed, weakly acted story pales beside Irwin's seemingly unstaged one-to-ones with the likes of the bird-eating spider and the fierce snake.
Whether he needs a feature film that merely repeats what he already does well on TV is debatable but in terms of wildlife action, it's much better value than "Crocodile Dundee"; plot-wise Paul Hogan has little to fear.
"The Crocodile Hunter: Collision Course" opens in UK cinemas on Friday 26th July 2002.