Reviewed by: Chris

"The catch-phrase, “Just because it is, doesn’t mean it should be,” is applied to anything that stands in the way, such as recouping investments at the box-office."

Australia is released in the UK on December 26th. Which means some people will be fresh from the experience of eating enough mince pies to make obesity a permanent part of their life. Only for Granny to insist, “Just one more, dear!”

If you're one of those who have missed out and feel in dire need of such surfeit, go and see Australia instead. It matters not that the Christmas excess has made you more brain dead than a failed euthanasia victim. Australia will dance meaninglessly before your eyes whether you pay attention or not. It’s something to do with a stuck-up English woman who’s a dab hand at rounding up thousands of cattle. Not to mention driving them across the desert, adopting orphan half-castes, and demonstrating enough moral superiority to rewrite history. All to the tune of Over The Rainbow. And if you need the odd hour halfway through to relieve your constipation, fear not! The plot is so transparent and the acting so awful you won’t have missed anything you wouldn’t pay to avoid seeing.

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The film does have a few surprises. Firstly it was directed by Baz Luhrmann. That chap who has made movies in the past that contained things like script and excitement. Secondly, Nicole Kidman is in it. I used to like her. Apparently she signed up to it on a dark night. Either Mr Luhrmann asked nicely, or she had consumed the entire Australian white grape production before anyone else could. Russell Crowe escaped by demanding too much money. Although it has cost more than any sane country should spend on fatuous tourism ads, the cracks with CGI cows and cheaply pasted-in burning battleships are almost enough to make me want to send Baz Luhrmann a cuddly toy so he can live out his fantasies in a less embarrassing way.

After Germaine Greer had shredded any claim to the film's authenticity in her Guardian article, I tried hard to like it. If only to spite Ms Greer. But I lasted about half an hour before realising I was watching out of sheer duty to warn others off, rather than any hope of finding a morsel of worthiness. Almost. Twelve year old Brandon Waters (Nullah) is good. He has that child’s ability to keep his head when all around are losing theirs. Kidman’s exaggerated Englishness is painful and unfunny. Hugh Jackman gives one of those performances that makes you glad that either he or the bad guy has a beard. Just so you can tell them apart. Not that it matters, as the story plods on (and on) with precise predictability. Attempts to create comparisons with The Wizard Of Oz feel contrived. In this world that is better than all possible worlds, women win equal rights, Aborigines sit down to drink with the white man, and the bad guy always loses. The catch-phrase, “Just because it is, doesn’t mean it should be,” is applied to anything that stands in the way, such as recouping investments at the box-office.

At best, it is a colourful romp for kids. As long as they don’t start swearing as volubly as Nullah when they get home. But it’s a long movie for children to sit through. Better, serialise it, along the lines of Little House On The Prairie. Add a dog. Or just send Baz Luhrmann that fluffy toy...

Reviewed on: 19 Dec 2008
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Australia packshot
Sprawling epic sees English toff and drover bond over cattle and kids.
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James Benefield **1/2

Director: Baz Luhrmann

Writer: Baz Luhrmann, Stuart Beattie, Ronald Harwood, Richard Flanagan

Starring: Hugh Jackman, Nicole Kidman, David Wenham, Bryan Brown, Brandon Walters, Bruce Spence, Jack Thompson, Bill Hunter, Ben Mendelsohn, John Jarratt, Jacek Koman

Year: 2008

Runtime: 165 minutes

BBFC: 12 - Age Restricted

Country: UK, Australia, US


Australia 2009

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