DVD Review: Australia - Expansive Land Mass, Average Film, Anemic DVD

Upon its theatrical release in November, Film.com writer Christine Champ gave Baz Luhrmann's newest film, Australia, a respectable grade "B" rating. The same day, Film.com's Laremy Legel declared it

an "absolute catastrophe on every level."

Australia is now available on DVD. So if you missed it in the theater and wish to decide with which of these writers you most agree, now is your chance. My take on it is as follows: the acting was good, which came as no surprise with the highly talented Nicole Kidman and Hugh Jackman co-starring; the storyline was ambitious and sweeping, yet, simultaneously and paradoxically, simplistic and predictable; and the aspect of the film I found most distracting and disappointing was the special effects.

Baz Luhrmann is known for his surreal, stylized films (William Shakespeare's Romeo & Juliet

and Moulin Rouge) and the first few moments of Australia are appropriately unconventional. However, once Ms. Kidman's character, British aristocrat Lady Sarah Ashley, arrives down under, the surrealism vanishes and glaringly obvious CGI work appears. Perhaps the very obviousness of the computer graphics is the point. If so, it was lost on me. It seems ironic and disingenuous that a film set in and named for the expansive land of natural wonders that is the continent of Australia should appear so blatantly artificial. Magic is successful when the audience can't see how it's done. Movies belong to the realm of magic and, unfortunately, Australia

shows its seams, thereby diluting its potency and making it less than believable.

Aside from the movie itself, the DVD version of Australia -- at least the screener copy I watched -- offered nothing in the way of extras except

for two deleted scenes, one of which titled "What About the Drove?" was actually edifying and made me wonder why it was cut. The second, "Angry Staff Serves Dinner," clearly belonged in the deleted pile -- its inclusion, even as a deleted scene, in so scanty of a "Bonus Features" section seems bizarre.

Ultimately, and unfortunately, Australia is a difficult film to recommend, even as a rental. It wasn't catastrophically bad, but it doesn't merit a "B" rating either. I suppose what it really amounts to is an average movie, which might not be so disappointing had it not been one I hoped and expected would be great.