March 3rd is the day that Australia premieres on DVD. This just gives the movie, one of 2008′s worst, an opportunity to be panned all over again. Here goes! Baz Luhrmann’s work has always been love-it or hate-it and I have always been defiantly in the hate-it camp. But even Baz sunk to new lows with this lavish piece of mindless kitsch. If he loves old Hollywood so much, then why does he try to recreate it without any taste or intelligence? Is it because he’s incapable of the genuine emotions that made those Golden Age classics so beloved? Is that why he turns everything into cliches and camp and overblown melodrama? Australia is more insult than homage. The result is an overinflated bore, at the center of which is one of the limpest and most hollow of love stories.
Instead of acting her role as the owner of a cattle ranch, Nicole Kidman huffs and puffs her way through the movie. She is so thin that I couldn’t help but notice her resemblance to a pencil. Poor Hugh Jackman, usually so appealing, makes a very unconvincing rugged he-man, a supposedly butch drover. There’s no chemistry or heat between the stars, though Baz seems obsessed with Hugh, photographing his face and body as if no one could resist him. Yet has he ever seemed so sexless?
And no one directs “comedy” as badly as Baz. There are many scenes played here in the unfunny Moulin Rouge! style of mugging till it hurts. We get caricatures instead of characters and a tone of flamboyant idiocy. It’s an epic of World War II Down Under, but it’s all wrapping with nothing inside. If you want to see a movie that earned a title as large as Australia, then go see The Sundowners (1960), a great Australian-set film starring Robert Mitchum and Deborah Kerr, both at their peaks. This Australia is a cautionary tale, not with regard to its war-torn plot, but as a warning about what happens when a hack director gets an enormous budget.