Oh, Baz. Baz Baz Baz Baz Baz. I love a sweeping epic. I do. In fact, I am so inclined to love a sweeping epic that I will sometimes cry at the sight of a beautiful mountain (with sufficiently rousing strings and brass) or because, like, someone is riding a horse. I also love a dirty, hunky hero and a swashbuckling tale of outback romance, and I love aboriginal magic (even if it feels a tiny bit exploitative). I do NOT love Nicole "Borg Queen" Kidman, and neither should any of you (unless you happen to be her baby, in which case, can we talk? I have some questions for you, the first of which being how did you learn to read, and the second of which being what is it like having a ceramic mom who fell from space?).
Anyway, Australia the movie is Baz Luhrmann's sweeping epic tribute to his faraway down-under homeland—"a land of crocodiles, cattle barons, and warrior chiefs where adventure and romance was a way of life." And BOY is it Australian! This movie might as well be Paul Hogan making love to a kangaroo, wearing a shirt that says: "CRIKEY! MY OTHER CAR IS A WITCHETTY GRUB," while the Crocodile Hunter's widow goes, "G'day, billabong! Joey wombat platypus marsupial. Walkabout! Men at Work, g'day! Crikey, Outback Steakhouse! Country? Continent? Both! Fuck you!" The end.
I mean, okay, so it's not totally exactly like that. It's actually Hugh Jackman (Australian, tiny-headed) as a grimy, grizzled, extremely hot freelance cattle herder hired to help Kidman (Australian, beep-boop-boop-robot!), a stuffy British aristocrat, manage her ranch, Faraway Downs. The pair scrappily battle an evil cattle baron, contend with antiaboriginal racism, and get bombed by the Japanese (it's 1942, you see). And even though no one literally boxes a kangaroo, every other word is "crikey" and "billabong" and "crikey," and it just drips with that one-dimensional Australian rugged individualism with which anyone with a TV is intimately familiar.
With much wiser editing, Australia could have been what Baz clearly wanted it to be—fun, magnificent, a grand old-fashioned movie classic that opens international eyes to the wonders of his home continent—instead of what it is: a hopelessly hammy, poorly paced, largely uninteresting catalog of Australia's most enduring stereotypes. I wanted to like it. I could not.
Coming soon: Ron Howard's epic North America, in which JFK (Vince Vaughn) bangs Scarlett O'Hara (Miley Cyrus) on a bed of tiny Statues of Liberty, while a bald eagle in a Yankees hat plays "This Land Is Your Land" on the clarinet, and then everyone eats hamburgers until they fucking explode. Crikey!