Stateside critics have finally seen Australia, and the reviews are in! Kind of, anyway; we've mostly been sorting through first impressions, rough blog sketches and less-then-soaring anti-summaries ("Some kind of lethargy virus had taken over my system," wrote Jeffrey Wells), but we think we have enough to go on to figure out where Baz Luhrmann's epic may sit among this fall's most anticipated releases. Your one-stop cheat sheet follows the jump.· It's... OK! Todd McCarthy has the most substantial review so far in Variety, starting off:
The beauty of the film's stars and landscapes, the appeal of the central young boy and, perhaps more than anything, the filmmaker's eagerness to please tend to prevail, making for a film general audiences should go with, even if they're not swept away.
That's pretty much the consensus, in fact; THR blogger Steve Zeitchik invokes "the schmalztier parts of The English Patient," while Anne Thompson sighs Australia is "well done for what it is, assuming that you like old-fashioned Hollywood movies of the sort they do not make anymore." ·It's a melodrama! "Snidely Whiplash" comes up in both McCarthy's and Thompson's reviews of Australia's cattle-baron villains, and THR reviewer Megan Lehmann cites some "cringe-making Harlequin Romance moments between homegrown Hollywood stars" Kidman and Jackman. But roll with it, says Patrick Goldstein: "[It's] hopelessly cornball if you're not willing to embrace the material with the same childlike abandon you felt when you first saw Brigadoon or Singin' in the Rain." ·It's long! "A bladder-burster at 165 minutes," complains Lou Lumenick. It's a unanimous observation across the board, and not always in a critical sense — though Variety's McCarthy emphasizes a succession of lags after the big second-act cattle drive and a drawn-out ending. And Zeitchik writes, "[W]ith many slo-motion shots accentuating melodrama, one can only wonder if it would have might clocked in at 1 1/2 hours had all scenes been shot at regular speed. ·It's got bad CGI! Lumenick decries "a special-effects laden Japanese attack on Darwin that looks like rejected test footage from Michael Bay's Pearl Harbor, and an even phonier-looking cattle charge toward a cliff." How phony-looking? Says McCarthy: "A dramatic stampede so CGI-heavy that it may as well have been animated." ·Nicole Kidman overachieves! Even Lumenick, one of the Oscar-winners most consistent critics, acknowledged "she gives the first performance I've liked since Cold Mountain." But how does she stack up against Jackman? "Pin thin and ramrod straight, Kidman gives one of her most engaging performances, occasionally harking back to the comic highs of To Die For," Lehmann writes. "Meanwhile, Jackman looks good in his Akubra bush hat."
·The Aboriginal kid is great! McCarthy says of young star Brandon Walters, "Eleven when the film was made, the attractive non-pro has a natural ease and winning way before the camera as the character who represents the tension in the country's racial divide and historical conscience." Lehmann gushes further, suggesting the "breakout star" lends Australia "its true heart." ·It's got a happy ending! Which, as you might already have heard, should make for a great series of DVD extras.