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It's hard to believe in Bazza's wonderland this time around.

Granted, Moulin Rouge! had novelty going for it on the initial viewing. But it’s now clear to me that Baz Luhrmann’s trick is to create movies that insist upon their own wonderfulness. This is where the patience-testing Australia tries to pressure us: Either you resist it and you’re a hopeless cynic, or you embrace it and you’ve been made a fool. It’s a film brimming with ideals of old-fashioned sweep and romance. But it’s just an illusion of love. Luhrmann uses his stock pizzazz to create an artificial epic. The issue isn’t that Luhrmann doesn’t opt for realism. That’s perfectly fine. It’s that nothing in Australia’s 165 minutes seems to really be happening. Lady Sarah Ashley (Nicole Kidman) journeys to Australia from England to keep an eye on her husband’s cattle ranch. Guided by The Drover (Hugh Jackman), whose outback gruffness clashes with her Brit prissiness, Sarah shrieks during a bar fight, marvels at a kangaroo and tries to rescue a half-Aboriginal/half-white kid (Brandon Walters). Luhrmann’s romanticized view of how history was shaped confines Australia’s racism as a thing of the past. Blessing the kid with magic powers, and having him narrate the movie like it were a Disney cartoon doesn’t help his case. The parallels to The Wizard of Oz (already tread in Wild at Heart and “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” is used prominently in Face/Off and Milk) aren’t justified. Australia doesn’t come into its own as a fairytale. Luhrmann’s flash-in-the-pan gymnastics can’t match the exquisite style of Catherine Hardwicke’s rain-drenched Twilight. And there’s not a performance with half the integrity of Twilight star Kristen Stewart. Everybody and everything in Australia is deliberately over-done. It’s a whole movie of the twirly moustache dude from Moulin Rouge! yelling “Spectacular! Spectacular!” in your face. The film ends with the Japanese bombing of Darwin, which followed the attack of Pearl Harbor, and that makes a fitting parallel. This is the most belaboured fumble since Michael Bay’s Pearl Harbor. At least that movie made for a great trailer.


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