Australia DVD: Review By Dodd

This film promises to be big in every way and it simply can't carry through
  • OVERALL
    1.5
    POOR
  • Feature
  • Picture
  • Sound
  • Extras
  • Replay Value
THE GOOD
Nothing beats a gathering of Australian character actors.
THE BAD
Baz Luhrmann's pet project is ambitious, but does not hold up in its final cut.
THE FEATURE
After the acclaim and success of Moulin Rouge, there was a question as to what director Baz Luhrmann would do next. After all, there were die-hard fans who became immersed in the flamboyance and vivid art direction of Rouge. With high expectations for something similar or better, it is a tough act to follow. What Luhrmann did decide to do was something literally huge. In 1956, George Stevens directed the film Giant which is an all-encompassing title. It featured huge stars, had an epic runtime, and took place in the state of Texas where a large ranch owner (Rock Hudson) managed a large piece of land with large cattle on it. It seems clear that Luhrmann shares the same pipe dreams with Stevens in his latest effort Australia. The film aims to achieve the same objectectives in the large continent of Australia and it is clear that Luhrmann's aspirations are huge. It just seems like the filmmaker put more kangaroo on his plate than he could handle.

As expected, the entire cast hails from Australia. However, star Nicole Kidman, while from Australia, actually plays Englishwoman Lady Ashley who travels to the gritty continent because he husband owns a cattle ranch there. The whiny snob is greeted gruffly by a man referred to only as Drover (Hugh Jackman). He is called this because, well, he drives cattle across the outback. Drover and Ashley have nothing in common and despise one another, and we all know this means they will end up together in the end. This is made even the more obvious when Lady Ashley watches Drover on a campsite as he dumps water on his bare upper torso in slow motion. Is it possible to see things in slow motion in real life? With enough drugs, I am sure that it is.

The plot, all 165 minutes of it, revolves around Lady Ashley and Drover as they must unite to save the ranch from a greedy competitor (Bryan Brown) and his dirty right-hand man (David Wenham). They must also deal with a part-white, part-Aboriginal boy (Brandon Walters) who is orphaned and at risk for being captured by the government. What follows is a very long film full of CGI kangaroos, breathtaking shots of the Australian outback, and many slow motion effects utilized for dramatic effect.

Australia is a film for which I had high hopes. It is rare that we get truly entertaining and meaningful epic films. Instead we get garbage like Pearl Harbor that fills in that long runtime with meaningless dribble and slaps the word "epic" on the movie poster. What most importantly makes an epic film work is when the audience sticks with it from beginning to end. Despite the long runtime, everything works together and keeps the audience engaged. The problem with Australia is that it is two movies in one. There comes a point at the 90-minute mark when so many conflicts throughout the plot have come to a resolution. The movie actually would have worked had it ended here. However, I knew I was watching an epic and there would be more to come. Then the second storyline enters the picture. This is the one that completely diminishes all acclimation to what could have been the solid ending at the 90-minute mark. It is the second half of the film that lugged me through the dry sands of the Outback and left me feeling exhausted.

The cast is a somewhat fun bunch to embrace. This is especially so for anyone who can recognize Australian character actors as if looking through a Where's Waldo book. In addition to stars Kidman and Jackman, there is also Bryan Brown (remember him from C*cktail?), Jack Thompson, and Aboriginal actor David Gulipilil (some may remember him as Paul Hogan's buddy in Crocodile Dundee). Jackman is reliably charismatic as a leading man. However, Kidman is a bit much as the shrill outsider from England. I am not sure how the plot would have been altered, but if you are taking an Australian-blooded actress and throwing her into a film about her homeland, why not just let her act right at home like everyone else? Someone get this woman a Foster's!
THE EXTRAS
Wow! If the movie can be compared to Australia, then I would compare the Special Features to a mere square mile of the Northern Territory. What do we get? A couple of deleted scenes. I am not sure if there is another DVD being worked on that is a 10-disc set that comes packaged in a decorative tin shaped like Australia in the size of a Labrador, but this slim pickens extra assortment is just pathetic.
THE VIDEO
Widescreen. There are moments when this film beautifully captures the land of Australia. However, many of the visuals are blatantly superficial. There are many green screen backdrops and carious uses of CGI that almost defeat the purpose of trying to make a genuinely gorgeous epic.
THE AUDIO
5.1 Dolby Surround. The music definitely has the correct makings of an epic. It particularly defines the locale with some Aboriginal music thrown into the mix.
THE PACKAGE
Fox has once again provided me with a screener disc in a cardboard envelope. The DVD case may be shaped like a topless Hugh Jackman, but I'll never know.
THE FINAL WORD
Overall, I would call Australia a huge letdown. This film promises to be big in every way and it simply can't carry through. The first half of the film is quite silly, but still bearable. However, the second half is just plain exhausting and excessive. To make matters worse, this giant project can't even provide a special features menu that can match the size of the continent. For an epic experience, I highly recommend renting a classic such as Giant, Titanic, or Lawrence of Arabia.

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Comments (6)

  1. Structure (ONSTRA)

    the movie was a masterpiece... :O.
    both ways good revieww.

    5 years agoby @gaj1992Flag

  2. Shelley

    I thought it was awesome as well but I am a big fan of Hugh Jackman and I think that makes a difference. Great review though.

    5 years agoby @shelleyFlag

  3. PUNISHER

    This movie is awesome.

    5 years agoby @cerealkillerFlag

  4. 313td

    Don't thing I would rate it that low,but it isn't my favorite.

    5 years agoby @313tdFlag

  5. T. King (Red Camera Man)

    This movie is way too long and too slow, but Hugh Jackman and Nicole Kidman both did great jobs.

    5 years agoby @redcameramanFlag

  6. The Cryptkeeper

    This one was pretty bad, and everyone seems to like it.

    5 years agoby @americanpsychoFlag