Hollywood's "Wizard of Oz" lauded for stunning, sexy epic

Wed Nov 19, 2008 8:46am EST
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By Belinda Goldsmith

SYDNEY (Reuters) - With stunning scenery, steamy love scenes, and an adorable Aboriginal child star, the outback epic "Australia" received largely positive reviews after its world premiere but failed to meet all the high expectations.

Starring homegrown Hollywood stars Nicole Kidman and Hugh Jackman, Australians were eagerly awaiting Tuesday's world premiere in Sydney, hoping the ambitious, 165-minute movie will help revive a stagnant local film industry and boost tourism.

It is the first movie in seven years from one of Hollywood's favorite Australian directors, Baz Luhrmann, who set out to make a 1940s-style romantic epic modeled on "Gone With The Wind" that will become part of Australian film history.

But with such high expectations for Australia's most expensive film, with a reported price tag of US$130 million, "Australia" disappointed some local critics.

The Melbourne Age described it as an "overlong melodramatic saga" with irritating Australian cliches to appeal to tourists.

Veteran critic David Stratton in The Australian said it "is not the masterpiece we hoped" but added it was easy to take, praising the magnificent shooting and acting performances.

The Daily Telegraph, however, said Luhrman's "hotly anticipated epic treats the Australian Outback as if it were a monumental theater. It doesn't let him down."

The movie, under News Corp's 20th Century Fox, features Oscar-winning Kidman, 41, as haughty English aristocrat Lady Sarah Ashley who comes to Australia on the brink of World War Two where she owns a sprawling cattle property.   Continued...

<p>Nicole Kidman walks in the rain under an umbrella held by director Baz Luhrmann on the red carpet at the world premiere of their new film "Australia" in Sydney, November 18, 2008. REUTERS/Tim Wimborne</p>