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John Stainton
Steve Irwin, Terri Irwin, Magda Szubanski, David Wenham, Lachy Hulme
John Stainton, Holly Goldberg Sloan

Box Office:
Budget $13 million.
Opening weekend $9.537 million on 2525 screens.
Domestic gross $28.399 million.
Rated PG for action violence/peril and mild language.

Widescreen 2.35:1/16x9
English Dolby Digital 5.1
French Dolby Surround
Spanish Dolby Surround
English, Spanish, French

Runtime: 89 min.
Price: $26.98
Release Date: 12/17/2002

• “Croc in the Shot: The Making of Collision Course
• Behind the Scenes Segments
• “Lights! Camera! Animals!” Featurettes
• Deleted Scenes Introduced By the Director
• Baha Men Music Video
• “Croc Track” Text Commentary
• Outback Interactive Games
• Photo Gallery
• Trailers


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The Crocodile Hunter: Collision Course (2002)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson

Someone out there must like exuberant animal expert Steve Irwin, but I can’t figure out why. Actually, that’s not totally true, as I can see why some folks might feel entertained by his “take no prisoners” approach to animal wrangling, but a little Irwin goes a long way. That man presents such a loud and obnoxious presence that he gets annoying very quickly.

I guess the bigwigs at MGM felt audiences could withstand Irwin for at least 89 minutes, for they brought us his first movie adventure, 2002’s The Crocodile Hunter: Collision Course. For better or for worse, fans of the TV show won’t find too much that strays from Irwin’s prior path. While it attempts to house a rudimentary plot, in reality Course plays largely like an extended episode of the program.

At the start of Course, a satellite mysteriously strays from orbit and self-destructs. Its “black box” lands in Australia, where a crocodile swallows it. The CIA needs to retrieve it because it contains lots of spy data, so they send agents Wheeler (Lachy Hulme) and Archer (Kenneth Ransom) to retrieve it. In the meantime, folks from the National Reconnaissance Office also want to snag the beacon, so they have Aussie agent Jo Buckley (Kate Beahan) try to cut off the CIA guys at the pass. She gets there first and poses as their local guide to keep tabs on them.

In the meantime, local rancher Brozzie Drewitt (Magda Szubanski) wants to kill a croc who invades her territory and chows on her cows. By an amazing coincidence, this just happens to be the same beast sought by the US spy forces. Ranger Sam Flynn (David Wenham) tries to stop her, and he eventually calls in animal relocation specialists to get the croc out of Brozzie’s domain.

And just who might those specialists be? Why, none other than “The Crocodile Hunter”, Steve Irwin, and his wife Terri. Flynn contacts them to come and relocate the croc. This doesn’t satisfy Brozzie, however, who still prefers to take things in her own lethal hands.

If you read this synopsis, you just might believe that Collision Course offers a real plot. You’d be mistaken. One of the odder films I’ve seen in some time, Course actually provides two totally different movies packed into one. Half the time we see the spy plot that involves the different agents, Brozzie, and Flynn. We watch that tale unfold in isolation, with only occasionally references to the Irwins.

During the other half of the movie, we observe the Irwins as they do offer their animal lessons. These portions play out exactly like their TV show segments go. The Irwins find some exotic critter, wrangle it, and tell us about it. In fact, the Irwins don’t even make any mention of the other plot until a third of the way into the movie, and they fail to interact with the other characters until almost the end of the flick. We see one quick fight between Steve and Wheeler atop a moving vehicle, but otherwise, the two halves of the film don’t connect until the very end.

This makes Collision Course a very odd piece of work. The Irwin segments will likely entertain fans of the show, as we see the couple interact with the usual assortment of critters. I don’t care for Steve’s forceful delivery, as he seems awfully overbearing and obnoxious to me, but obviously he has his supporters. Is there anything in these pieces that you couldn’t find on episodes of the show? Probably not.

The spy half of the flick provides nothing very useful. The actors seem bland and unmemorable for the most part. Szubanski overacts relentlessly and presents one of the most annoying on-screen presences I’ve seen in a while. Beahan looks pretty sexy in her little Outback shorts, but neither she not the male leads provide any form of personality or character depth. No one provides any charm or life during this extremely forgettable movie.

Frankly, the film’s “plot” just seems like a gimmick thrown in to frame the Irwin segments. Collision Course has the look of a cheap flick intended to cash in on the TV show’s popularity. While the movie only grossed $28 million, with a budget of just $13 million, it will ultimately make some money. That’s too bad, as it’ll probably encourage studios to finance more flimsy flicks like this. Collision Course didn’t offer an aggressively unpleasant experience, but it seemed shoddy and dull across the board. There’s nothing creative about this movie, as it comes across as nothing more than marketing synergy brought to the big screen.

The DVD Grades: Picture B+ / Audio B+ / Bonus B+

The Crocodile Hunter: Collision Course appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.35:1 on this single-sided, dual-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. Despite a few small concerns, Course usually provided a very positive picture.

Sharpness seemed terrific. The movie always remained crisp and well delineated. I noticed virtually no signs of softness or fuzziness. Jagged edges and moiré effects created no problems, but I noticed just a smidgen of edge enhancement. Print flaws seemed a little prominent for a brand-new flick. I noticed occasional example of marks, specks and streaks. However, these stayed modest and the image displayed fewer examples of them as it progressed.

Course usually presented a naturalistic palette that mostly took place in the daytime, and the DVD showed a nicely realistic and lively sense of color. The hues seemed vivid and distinct throughout the flick, and they demonstrated no signs of noise or bleeding. The tones looked clean and accurate and stood out in a positive way. Black levels came across as deep and rich, while shadow detail was appropriately heavy but not overly dense. Nighttime scenes showed clear delineation and never appeared too dark. Were it not for the occasional print flaws and light edge enhancement, Collision Course would have merited a solid “A” rating, but even with the different concerns, it still earned a “B+”.

One very odd element of this movie: the two halves use different aspect ratios. The spy story uses the full 2.35:1 frame, but the Irwin bits windowbox the image for what appears to be a 1.78:1 picture. Why did they do it this way? I don’t know, but it seems weird and distracting. I’ve never watched Irwin’s TV show, but maybe they film that 1.78:1 and kept it that way for consistency’s sake.

I felt fairly impressed with the Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack of Collision Course. The mix generally favored the forward channels, though it also broadened to the rears effectively when necessary. In the front, the music showed nice stereo imaging while effects created a good sense of atmosphere and environment. Elements meshed cleanly and moved smoothly across the spectrum. The surrounds contributed general reinforcement for the most part, but they kicked in with greater activity during the movie’s climax sequence. At that time, it offered a lively presence as the river chase featured planes and explosions that made the piece quite involving.

Audio quality seemed positive. Speech appeared natural and warm, and I noticed no problems related to edginess or intelligibility. Music sounded bright and dynamic and displayed good depth and fidelity. Effects also came across as distinct and clean, and they showed no signs of distortion. Bass response seemed deep and rich. Ultimately, the soundtrack didn’t present anything particularly special, but it worked well enough to merit a “B+”.

For this DVD release of Collision Course, we find a pretty extensive collection of extras. The set lacks the usual audio commentary, but it provides the Croc Track, a text piece. It includes almost no information about the movie itself. Instead, we learn about animals and a mix of other elements seen in the film such as flashlights, traveling in the Outback, satellites and many other things. The track seems superfluous but innocuous and moderately entertaining.

In addition, we discover a mix of video pieces. We start with A Croc in Shot: The Making of Collision Course. This program lasts 23 and a half minutes and combines movie clips and shots from the set. Narration from Steve Irwin loudly touts the film and all of its dangerous stunts as we watch behind the scenes images. While I could live without Irwin’s annoying comments, the footage from the production offers some good material. We get a nice sense of all the flick’s physical challenges, so “Croc” works reasonably well.

Next we get a group of five Behind the Scenes segments. These last a total of 18 minutes and eight seconds and provide material similar to what we saw in “Croc”, though the program seems more satisfying as a whole. Again narrated by Irwin – for the first three, at least - these pieces omit the movie clips and strictly offer shots from the set. These mainly focus on working with the animals, an aspect that documents Irwin’s transformation into Magda Szubanski’s stunt double. We also watch two segments that depict practical visual effects on the set. The presentation simply and effectively shows the work during the shoot, which makes these pieces fairly interesting and useful.

For an additional focus on the film’s non-human participants, check out Lights! Camera! Animals!. This packs 10 different segments, all of which last a total of 36 minutes and five seconds. Similar to the pieces found in the last area, we see some more great material from the set. Most of these concentrate on interactions with Monty the crocodile; these fascinating clips make it seem amazing no one got killed during the shoot, and they’re easily about 100 times more entertaining than the movie itself. The other bits feature the flick’s snakes and the baby kangaroos. These featurettes add a lot of great material to the mix.

After this we find five Deleted Scenes. These run a total of 11 minutes and 31 seconds, a figure that includes introductions from producer/director John Stainton. The cut clips represent fairly minor changes and excisions; none seem like bad choices. Stainton ably explains the reasons for the trims and gives us some useful notes.

The DVD tosses in a music video for “Crocodile Rock” by Baha Men. This mostly provides a combination of lip-synching and movie clips, though it also pretends that the Men found the beacon from the flick. The Men adapt the lyrics to fit the film’s story. I never liked the Elton John original – it’s one of his cheesiest songs – but this version makes Elton’s take seem brilliant. Tacky rendition, silly video.

Outback Interactive Games includes a mix of extras. In the Games area we get three contests. “Ultralight” runs a side-scrolling piece in which you need to fly above poachers and drop ammo on them. This lamely executed offering makes it absolutely unclear how you’re doing as it proceeds, and even when it ends, it only vaguely offers a score. It seems genuinely terrible and pointless.

Based on the once popular Tamagotchi virtual creatures, ”Joeygotchi” forces you to care for the basic needs of a kangaroo. This bit appears pretty silly, but at least it beats “Ultralight”. Lastly, “Outback Adventure” sends you around on a pointless journey. Actually, maybe it does have a point, but I couldn’t find one.

Meet Steve and Terri provides decent text biographies of the Irwins. Australian Critters gives us short text descriptions of nine different creatures. Survival shows text tips on how to make it in the outback. Trivia offers a 35-question quiz that covers the Irwins and different animal species; it ends with no reward, though. You’ll learn the answers during the other areas of this domain.

In the Trailers section, we find both the theatrical ad and the teaser for Course. Lastly, we get a Photo Gallery that splits into five smaller pieces: “Behind the Scenes” (15 shots), “The Irwin Family” (six pictures), “From the Film” (16), “The Many Faces of Steve” (six), and “Crocs Rule!” (five).

No one will mistake The Crocodile Hunter: Collision Course for a great movie. In fact, it barely qualifies as a movie, since the flick mostly comes across like an extended version of the TV show. The film doesn’t fall totally flat, but it offers little to make it entertaining or winning. The DVD provides generally solid picture and sound plus a pretty interesting collection of extras. If you liked Collision Course, you should feel happy with this DVD, but I can’t recommend this dull flick to anyone else.

Viewer Film Ratings: 4.2888 Stars Number of Votes: 45
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