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Rating: PG-13

Nicole Kidman as Lady Sarah Ashley
Hugh Jackman as Drover
Brandon Walters as Nullah
David Wenham as Neil Fletcher
Jack Thompson as Kipling Flynn
Bryan Brown as King Carney
Tony Barry as Sergeant Callahan
Ray Barrett as Bull
Arthur Dignam as Father Benedict
Sandy Gore as Gloria Carney
David Gulpilil as King George
John Jarratt as Sergeant
Jacek Koman as Ivan
Crusoe Kurddal as Aboriginal Tracker
Ben Mendelsohn as Captain Dutton
David Ngoombujarra as Magarri
Angus Pilakui as Goolaj
Bruce Spence as Dr. Barker

Directed by Baz Luhrmann

Special Features:
Deleted Scenes

Other Info:
Widescreen (2.35:1)
Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound
Spanish and French Language Tracks
Spanish Subtitles
Running Time: 165 Minutes

The Movie:
The following is the official description of the film:

“Nicole Kidman and Hugh Jackman join forces with visionary director Baz Luhrmann in ‘Australia,’ an epic and romantic action adventure set on the brink of World War II. When an English aristocrat (Nicole Kidman) travels to this faraway continent, she meets rough-hewn cattle driver (Hugh Jackman) and an enchanting aboriginal child (Brandon Walters). This unlikely trio joins forces and embarks on a transforming journey, driving a herd of cattle across hundreds of miles of the world’s most beautiful, yet unforgiving, terrain. When their world is torn apart by powerful enemies, they must try to find each other amidst the bombing of the city of Darwin by the Japanese forces that attacked Pearl Harbor. With this new film, director Baz Luhrmann is painting on a vast canvas, creating a cinematic experience that brings together comedy, romance, drama, adventure and spectacle.”

“Australia” is rated PG-13 for some violence, a scene of sensuality, and brief strong language.

I’m a big fan of Hugh Jackman and I’ve enjoyed work by Baz Luhrmann and Nicole Kidman in the past, so I had high hopes for “Australia.” What I got wasn’t exactly what I was expecting.

The film can easily be divided up into three parts. The first third is a strangely hokey, silly introduction to the characters. There’s a lot of comedy as Sarah is thrown into the Outback. The opening scenes feature a child narrating the events and cartoony maps showing where everything takes place. It’s almost like the opening number to a musical without the music.

“Australia” then takes a rather serious turn as the characters are thrown into jeopardy as they try to save the ranch. Characters die, there’s some degree of gore, and it gets a bit intense. It feels like it has the Western aspects of “Quigley Down Under” and the cowboy/drover aspects of “The Man From Snowy River.” You see less of the kid’s narration and more of the action and romance I expected.

The final third of the film feels more like “Pearl Harbor,” “Empire of the Sun,” or “The Year of Living Dangerously” as the Japanese attack Darwin and Sarah and Drover deal with the aftermath. This is easily the darkest and most serious portion of the movie, a dramatic contrast from the first third of the film.

These three very different acts and tones make it feel like Baz Luhrmann didn’t quite know where to take “Australia.” It also feels like he was trying to do too much in the film as evidenced by the nearly 3 hour running time. A lot of time is spent on the Aborigine relocation program. A lot of time is spent on the cattle driving portion of the story. A lot of time is spent on the Japanese invasion. Then there’s the love story, the battle with the rival rancher, etc etc etc. It might have been better to shorten or eliminate one of these. I think the whole narration with Nullah would have been a good place to start as he takes away from the otherwise serious tone of the film.

“Australia” had some great performances. Hugh Jackman and Nicole Kidman handle their roles wonderfully and they make the story watchable. However, it lacked in a couple of other places. Luhrmann seemed to rely on CGI a lot more than I would have expected. It’s required in some places like the Japanese attack and the cattle stampede, but in other spots it’s way too CGI. You can tell a lot of blue screen was used and some of the nature scenes come across as fake. I expected Luhrmann to let the natural beauty of Australia speak for itself as much as possible. The music also doesn’t have that big, epic feel you would expect. They rely way too much on repeated “Wizard of Oz” references for their musical cues.

Overall, “Australia” is an entertaining and watchable movie, but it’s not as epic and polished as you might expect. Hugh Jackman fans are going to enjoy this one the most… and of course Aussies.

One other note… this movie has one of the oddest warnings I’ve ever seen. It warns Aborigine viewers that there may be voices of dead people recorded in the film. (Considering Judy Garland is featured in it, I’d say you’d definitely see dead people.) Seems to me if your beliefs tell you not to watch anything with voices of dead people in it, you probably shouldn’t be watching movies at all since there’s no way you can check an entire cast is still alive from every production you view.

Since the movie is so long, there’s only one bonus feature on the regular edition DVD – deleted scenes. And there are only two of them, both rather brief. One shows the dinner staff miffed at Sarah, the other shows Drover facing off with Fletcher and inadvertently convincing Sarah to stay.