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“Australia”

OK, let me start by saying that Christine and I were huge fans of Baz Luhrmann’s last movie “Moulin Rouge!”. The music, that crazy dramatic story, Ewan McGregor and Nicole Kidman singing in a giant elephant, what’s not to love? Almost any way you look at it, the movie kicked ass.

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So, when we went to a WGA screening of Luhrmann’s latest widescreen epic, “Australia”, on Friday night, we had pretty high hopes. Unfortunately, the movie did not deliver on many of them. It’s not that “Australia” is bad, because it’s not, in fact there are some really cool things in it, but overall the movie is a bit too bloated for it’s own good.

The biggest problem for me was that in trying to recreate his favorite sweeping epics from the past — “Out of Africa”, “Gone With The Wind”, “Giant”, etc. — Luhrmann lost sight of the things he does best. And though he infuses the film with plenty of crazy camera angles and editing, and his patented love-it-or-hate-it slapstick humor is all over the place, the movie as a whole is shockingly conventional. And for someone with Luhrmann’s unique talents, that is very disappointing indeed.

And though much of the dialog is extremely cheesy and almost painfully corny in spots — the first half hour of the movie is so obnoxious that we almost walked out, seriously, it’s mind-numbingly lame! — the movie has some very cool scenes, and stars Nicole Kidman and Hugh Jackman have never looked better.

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In fact, they look so good that it’s kind of distracting. Kidman is at her shiny, china doll prettiest in this movie, which is cool, but a bit hard to swallow when she’s supposedly out there wrangling cattle in the outback. And Jackman’s costumes are so fetishized in some scenes that it’s almost laughable.

I mean, really, what self-respecting Aussie drover would be caught dead in those tight-ass, low rise jeans? And in 1939? Please! I get it, I mean, Jackman is hot and rugged and all that, but wow, there are so many shots of his enormous package and bounce-a-quarter off it ass that you’d think Tom of Finland was Luhrmann’s co-director. It was kind of crazy…

But all that said, the cattle drive portion in the middle of the movie is really cool and totally unique and the Aboriginal child actor who plays Nullah, newcomer Brandon Walters, was also pretty fantastic. And his narration, though difficult to understand in spots, definitely ads to the impact of the movie.

So, overall, not a great film, but definitely not the worst movie you could see this Thanksgiving weekend. And if you like your movies big, loud, and packed with Aussie stereotypes — seriously, Jackman says “crikey” so many times it’s like he’s channeling Steve Irwin or something — “Australia” is the movie for you.

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After the movie, we stayed for a brief Q & A with Luhrmann and one of his co-writers, Stuart Beattie (“Collateral”) which was interesting, but totally dominated by Luhrmann’s strange ramblings. He was cool, but, wow, kind of a nutter if you ask me. Let’s just say I can see why he burned through three co-writers on this movie…yikes.

That said, I was a bit bummed that they cut the Q & A short because I wanted to ask about the rumor that they shot seven different endings for the movie (yep, you heard me, seven!) but seeing as the film itself was over two and a half hours long, I understood the moderator’s need to move things along.

Plus, after sitting in that theatre with a bunch of sweaty screenwriters for over three hours, crikey, even I was ready to go home! Whew…

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