Mr. Movie

'Australia' comes off as big, bold, but too long

Baz Luhrmann is a visionary writer/director. He packages his movies with a unique sense of cinematic style with a sharp, land-down-under sense of humor and flair for the dramatic.

His career consists of only four movies. The last was the critically acclaimed Moulin Rouge in 2001. A moviemaker as creative as Luhrmann should make more movies.

If nothing else, Australia proves he needs the practice.

It sticks Aussie stars Nicole Kidman and the new sexiest man alive Hugh Jackman in a dawn of World War II fable about a mismatched love affair and the magical half-Aborigine, half-Caucasian kid that binds them together.

She’s a Lady -- as in aristocracy -- from England whose husband buys an Australian ranch as an investment. Before the husband gets murdered, he hires Jackman’s cattle drover and horseman to transport her to the ranch.

To survive and save the investment, Kidman gets him to help drive the cattle to Darwin and beat a rival rancher to a lucrative government contract. Tossed into the story is the injustice done in that era to the nation’s half-breed kids who were conscripted into slavery.

Lurhmann’s flaw is an inability to decide whether his film is an epic adventure, a dramatic love story or a romantic comedy. Though the social injustice is an important topic and always an interesting discussion, it doesn’t really fit here.

Lurhmann throws a bit of each at the screen hoping something sticks. The parts that do, such as the chemistry between the charismatic Jackman and the stunning Kidman, the sexiest movie kiss in decades and some of the action sequences, work very well. Other increments such as the film’s unimaginably boring villains don’t.

Australia is also a gorgeous movie. Luhrmann’s camera wizardry and the thrilling aerial cinematography are breathtaking and show off the continent’s stunning beauty. As The Lord of the Rings did for New Zealand, Australiamakes you want to book a flight and make it your next vacation destination.

But this is a major motion picture -- not a travelogue.

Mr. Movie rating: 4 stars

Rated PG-13 for mature themes. It is playing at the Columbia Mall 8 and at Fairchild Cinemas 12.

5 stars to 4 1/2 stars: Must see on the big screen

4 stars to 3 1/2 stars: Good film, see it if it's your type of movie.

3 stars to 2 1/2 stars: Wait until it comes out on video.

2 stars to 1 star: Don't bother.

0 stars: Speaks for itself.