Australia Directed by: Baz Luhrmann Cast: Hugh Jackman, Nicole Kidman, Brandon Walters, David Wenham Running Time: 2 hrs 45 mins Rating: PG-13
Plot: This is Luhrmann's epic romance action adventure ode to Australia. Set just before and during World War II comes the story of an English aristocrat (Kidman) joining forces with a rough local (Jackman) for a cattle drive and much more.
Who’s It For? Look at the running time again. Is it for you? It's not completely action packed, but there aren't many dull moments in this crowd pleaser.
Expectations: I was completely and utterly on the fence with this film. Love Luhrmann, but Jackman and Kidman only occasionally put a smile on my face. Plus, the previews make this look just like another take on Far and Away.
Actors: Nicole Kidman as Lady Sarah Ashley: Just read the name of her character -- completely fits right? She's prim, proper and a priss. And with Kidman leading the way it completely fits. She even makes annoying moments like butchering "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" charming in a elitist sort of way. Kidman should now just go back and forth between Luhrmann and Noah Baumbach (Margot at the Wedding). They both bring out the best in her ... which is the odd sort of annoying. Like we want to see her fall down, but enjoy it when she gets back up. Score: 8
Hugh Jackman as Drover: Crikey that man says crikey a lot. In fact, Drover could have been Crocodile Dundee's dad. But Jackman makes this cowboy work. Nothing like having your name be your occupation (he's a cattle driver, which they call a drover). He puts on a good show when he's charming or in a street fight. And when he gets misty, well, let's just say some of the dust in the outback must have traveled into the theater. Score: 7
Brandon Walters as Nullah: There should be a warning sign on Nullah. This is the make or break character in the film. The mixed race boy, known in Australia as part of the "Stolen Generation" you will fall in love ... or hate. I managed both. He plays an aborginal child cast out by society, but embraced by Sarah. At best he's a cute kid, and a decent narrator. At worst he's Jar Jar Binks. Score: 6
Davind Wenham as Fletcher: He's the token bad guy, but never really nails a scene. Just like in Return of the King, he's just kind of there ... but here he's doing his best Cal Hockley (Billy Zane) impression from Titanic. Score: 6
Talking: Crikey that man says crikey a lot. I know I already said that but it bares repeating. And they beat you over the head with "pride is not power," but that phrase never gets a statisfying send off. And by the way, beyond having Walters narrate, there is going to be some thick accents where you won't pick up every word. Score: 6
Sights: Lurhmann has made a lavish epic. There is a great fairy tale style to the first half, especially the beginning and I was really sad to see it go. There are some signature scenes here like the big brawl in the beginning, pretty much the entire cattle drive and the devastating invasion from Japan. There is great scenery, but an odd mix of green screening, where the special effects eliminate some of the beauty. Score: 7
Sounds: It's tough for a film to try and grab onto Wizard of Oz but Australia definitely tries. If for some reason you hate, "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" you must avoid this film. Speaking of avoid... make sure you leave the theater immediately when the credits start, Elton John comes along and his song is the worst part of the film ... and no, I don't have a problem with Elton John .... just this song. Score: 6
Best Scene: The cattle stampede is the best. I was shocked at how much I suddenly cared, probably as shocked as Lady Sarah. The visuals were great, but more importantly I became emtionally connected to the film.
Ending: It's a crowd-pleaser as much as it can be.
Questions: Seriously, am I the only one who hears Jar Jar Bings every once in a while? And for an almost three hour movie, it's amazing they didn't find time for Sarah to mourn her husband and give a proper death to Carney.
Rewatchability: I could watch the first hour and a half again in a heart beat. But I think you could go in planning that and before you know it, you've seen the whole thing again.
This is Baz Luhrmann's best film since Moulin Rouge ... it's also his first since the 2001 musical. While he does try to do a little too much with this epic, he hits all the points well. And Australia really tried to tap into the type of epic that was told years ago. Kidman and Jackman are a good mixed-match couple, and the story of the "Stolen Generation" is a sad one, told through the life of Nullah. But World War II doesn't even show up until two hours in, and when it does, most of the humor fades away. It doesn't carry the fun, almost fairytale quality of the first half with the cattle drive. Bottom line, it is a crowd-pleaser that will give you adventure and romance. Even though it closes in on three hours, you're never bored, and almost always entertained.
Final Score: 7/10