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Australia

Movie title: Australia (2008)
Grade: C- (2 stars)
Rated: PG-13
Summation: an English aristocrat who inherits a sprawling ranch reluctantly pacts with a stockman in order to protect her new property from a takeover plot.
Spoilers ahead: No

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The desire of some to relive memories of the past is an ever-present pull in the movie-making business, as evidenced by the mounds of remakes of the classics. When done, it is almost always a futile effort, but the makers never seem to learn from their mistakes. In Australia, we get more of the same—a romanticizing movie that tries a little too hard to be profound.

Though it aspires to, Australia does not take you back to simpler times. It is not like The Wizard of Oz. It’s not like The Sound of Music. It tries to be, but it’s not. It is a movie about a prissy tough English gal, the confinement of native aboriginal children into mission schools by the church, and cattle—yes, cattle!

Now ordinarily, when I hear about cattle, I think about beef, and when I think about beef, I get hungry. I want a rare-done flame-broiled burger with tomatoes, onions, pickles, catsup, and steak fries on the side. Heck, I want a hamburger just writing this review. But I didn’t want a hamburger while watching Australia. I just wanted it to be over. Better was the movie’s middle and end when compared to the beginning, but it wasn’t all it wanted to be.

The narrator’s voice is the young Nullah (Brandon Walters), an aboriginal boy and a central part of the story. I don’t care how talented and promising he was as a young actor (but yes, I’ll admit, he did show some promise). His narration became an annoyance after a while. I wanted to backhand him by the last forty-five minutes of the film. Lady Sarah Ashley (Nicole Kidman) heads down to the outback (yes, there are pictures of kangaroos as you’d expect in any movie about Australia!) Her purpose in going is to protect her property inheritance from a takeover. Upon arriving and getting some devastating personal news, she joins forces with a man who lives and breathes cattle, a man named Drover (Hugh Jackman). Only the bombing of Darwin, Australia by the Japanese can overshoot the challenges of the harsh land. That’s the story, and it’s drawn out in just over 165 minutes of runtime!

I have a bias against long movies, and that’s because when a movie runs too long (even if it’s a great movie), it’s a sign of arrogance, as though to say: “I’m a good movie and you just KNOW you want more of me, so I’m nice and long just for your viewing pleasure.” It’s too darn proud of itself, this movie is. And it’s long—very, very long! Arrogance…I hate it.

Thankfully, a bumblingly bad beginning gives way to a decently developed story just shy of the halfway marker. If you can make it past the first hour of the movie, it might redeem itself for you. But I still say it tried too hard. This becomes increasingly true with the ending the plot has caught up in World War II, a few months after the bombing of Pearl Harbor.

In Australia, we have a creative idea for a story, good acting, and a hefty 161 million dollar budget (and the scenery to show for it, I might add), but it came with a swollen, self-absorbed plot. It had its moments, but the moment I enjoyed best was its ending.

(JH)

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Director: Baz Luhrmann
Starring: Hugh Jackman “Drover,” Ray Barrett “Bull,” Nicole Kidman “Lady Sarah Ashley,” Bryan Brown “King Carney,” Tony Barry Sergeant Callahan,” Jamal Bednarz-Metallah “Mission Boy,” Damian Bradford “Constable #1”
Genre: Drama

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