A holiday down under

“Australia” is a sweeping romance amidst the kangaroos.

“Australia” is a sweeping romance amidst the kangaroos.

Ashley Goetz

“Australia” is a sweeping romance amidst the kangaroos.

âÄúAustraliaâÄù STARRING: Nicole Kidman, Hugh Jackman DIRECTED BY: Baz Luhrmann PLAYING: Area theaters RATED: PG-13 âÄúAustralia,âÄù the much buzzed-about new film from âÄúMoulin Rouge!âÄù visionary Baz Luhrmann , is an epic in the vein of âÄúGone with the Wind,âÄù âÄúGiantâÄù and, yes, even âÄúTitanic.âÄù What constitutes such an epic? For starters, âÄúAustraliaâÄù is almost three hours long. But besides that, itâÄôs chock full of gorgeous scenery, a multi-layered story and, of course, a breathtaking romance lingering at its center. Luhrmann, remaining as ambitious and impressively creative as his previous films have proven, has concocted a grand, seven-years-in-the-making homage to his homeland. The textures of Australia, a land of odd creatures and rugged, sun-drenched ruffians, are realized in full, lush detail by LuhrmannâÄôs meticulous attention to the slightest of details, from Aboriginal music and customs to the way the rain sounds during AustraliaâÄôs âÄúwetâÄù season. To aid in telling his countryâÄôs tale, Luhrmann packs the plot with plenty of gushy romance and Hepburn and Tracy-esque bickering between the filmâÄôs principal characters. Nicole Kidman disappears into her role as frosty British Lady Sarah Ashley alongside Hugh JackmanâÄôs Drover, who swaggers across the screen like a brawny lady-killer. âÄúAustraliaâÄù is narrated by Nullah, a half-Aborigine child living on Faraway Downs, the cattle ranch owned by Lady AshleyâÄôs late husband. Nullah remains a central focus of the movie and is probably its high point. Child actor Brandon Walters, with big brown eyes and the sweetest of little-boy sopranos, plays the stereotypical âÄúcute kidâÄù without cloying. His narrative spans everything from stampedes to racial turmoil between white European settlers and Aborigines to the Japanese bombing of Darwin that immediately followed Pearl Harbor. Of course, as with any Luhrmann movie, the heart of âÄúAustraliaâÄù is vibrant scarlet with love and the chemistry between Jackman and Kidman, both native Australians, is as electric as any of their classic movie forebears, in the vein of your Scarletts and Rhetts. In many ways, âÄúAustraliaâÄù is a classic film, with its grand, swooping camera angles and rich palette of scenic colors. Much like âÄúMoulin Rouge!,âÄù âÄúAustraliaâÄù is a picture that would be as comfortable in a 1930s picture house as it is onscreen at the multiplex. In the tradition of any modern-day film dealing with a war-torn era, âÄúAustraliaâÄù uses computer-generated imagery to recreate battle scenes and carnage, as well as cattle stampedes and rainstorms. Though the use of CGI is a controversial topic amongst film buffs and critics alike, in âÄúAustralia,âÄù it isnâÄôt intrusive, but instead paints the movie in a watercolor haze, almost like a particularly lovely dream or an Annie Leibovitz photograph in âÄúVogue.âÄù Luhrmann excels at crafting movies that sweep you off your feet, and âÄúAustraliaâÄù makes the perfect holiday film âÄî a blockbuster in the tradition of the most classic of love stories. Four stars out of five