Before watching this, the only movies I could think of in which Australia was featured prominently were the Crocodile Dundee films. Knowing only this, let me say that director Baz Luhrmann's newest film is now my third favorite about the goings on in Oz.

Not wanting to close their foundering ranch, early-1940s British aristocrat Lady Sarah Ashley (Nicole Kidman, The Golden Compass) follows her philandering husband to rural Australia. Upon arriving, she finds loads of foul play afoot, and the only man who can move her cattle is a rather uncouth, uncooperative rustler (Hugh Jackman, X-Men). In the meantime, there's a newly orphaned half-Aboriginal boy to look out for, and WWII is creeping toward the Aussie mainland.

Australia feels like two mini-movies in one—and with a runtime of 165 minutes, it's no wonder. Part One, I would liken to a period Disney film. There's a kid narrating, there's mischief, and the characters are thoroughly exaggerated. Part two is a more Pearl Harbor-ish war-era love story. Both are a little simplistic: The good guys are good, the bad guys are bad, and that's that. I hate to ruin it, but the ending is also sickeningly upbeat.

No doubt Luhrmann, who re-teamed with his Moulin Rouge star Kidman, is a wiz at creating visually stunning films, but this script came up somewhat short. Luckily, the slowest moments are at the onset, helping soften the overly long runtime. I still say that if you want a fully entertaining Aussie film, rent something with Paul Hogan's name on it.


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