I am never going to have an aesthetic appreciation of the bird-eating spider. It’s about the size of a Bosc pear, hairy, and packing fangs that spout venom. Steve Irwin, cable television’s Crocodile Hunter, on the other hand, has a starry-eyed, ebullient adoration for it that makes the creature seem a little less loathsome. And that’s saying a lot, considering how I feel about eight-legged creatures that exhibit radial symmetry and an exoskeleton.
THE CROCODILE HUNTER is a cable phenomenon. In each installment we see Steve wrestling crocs, handling snakes, chasing lizards and generally interacting with all manner of wildlife, the more dangerous the better. It’s not all fun and games, though Mr. Irwin’s brand of hyped-up energy seems like he’s been popping espressos non-stop for three days. While filling the screen with more kinetic energy than a super nova, he’s also explaining with infectious affection each critter’s zoological particulars and waxing rhapsodic at its unique beauty. Even that spider.
The film he stars in, THE CROCODILE HUNTER: COLLISION COURSE, is, for the most part, just like that cable series. We see Steve and his wife and fellow naturalist, Terri, finding all sorts of fascinating animals as they patrol the Australian outback. As they come upon each one, whether an orphaned kangaroo, a snake that’s in danger of becoming road kill, or a crocodile that needs to be relocated to a less populous area, Steve talks right into the camera, bubbling over with facts about each one, sometimes poking a stick at it to make it show its fangs. Yeah, I’m back to the spider now.
Intercut with this is a rather silly story about a piece of a satellite that’s plummeted to earth only to be swallowed whole by the crocodile that Steve and Terri are relocating. They don’t know that, of course, nor that the determined if inept band of super spies chasing them are after it. The Irwins think they’re poachers and act accordingly. Lest anyone begin to take this too seriously, while doing battle with them, Steve once again talks right into the camera offering the same sort of running commentary that he does when interacting with more conventional wildlife. It’s so loopy that it actually made the adults in the audience I saw it with laugh right along with the kids.
But make no mistake, this flick is strictly for kids and that’s not an indictment. Steve is a big kid himself, so he knows what will get the kiddies laughing, from poop jokes to guys in suits tangling with the great outdoors. This humor aimed straight at the little darlings, not written down to them. The thing is, Irwin also teaches a thing or two about nature, even with the poop jokes, while he’s got their attention. No small thing that, because the lesson is that nature isn’t there to be exploited, that it has its own special beauty, even that bird-eating spider I can’t seem to get past, and that the real villains are the ones that don’t respect the fact that they share the planet with other creatures who have just as much right to be here as we do.
He’s also not above making a little fun of himself. In a scene set at spy headquarters, as the agents discuss how the Irwins can afford to travel all over the world on naturalist expeditions on what cable pays for their series, a montage of photos of Steve at his most ridiculous pops up on the monitor behind them.
THE CROCODILE HUNTER: COLLISION COURSE is a flick that’s fun for kids and that parents can feel good about letting them see.