Australia film panned by critics as cliched tourism ad

LONDON - Baz Luhrmann's £86m epic film 'Australia' has disappointed many critics following its premiere in Sydney last night, with some reviews saying it is just a tourism ad for the country, littered with clichés and exaggerated accents.

Jim Schembri, critic for the Melbourne Age described it as an "overlong melodramatic saga" and criticised Luhrmann for his eagerness to "trowel on the Aussie cliches" to appeal to tourist markets.

He also said that "the word 'crikey' is spouted so often the film often sounds like a tribute to Steve Irwin".

In a review for The Daily Telegraph, Bonnie Malkin said: "His countrymen had worried that Baz Luhrmann's much anticipated 'Australia' would present to the world a series of time-honoured cliches. Their fears were well founded."

Malkin was also unimpressed with Hugh Jackman's performance pointing out that "he doesn't say much, but one of the first words uttered from his sunburned lips is 'crikey'.

"This is the kind of movie, you would imagine, that Steve Irwin would have loved."

Tourism Australia's latest campaign is partly built around the film, which both it and the studio behind it, 20th Century Fox, are counting on being a hit.

Lurhmann directed two ads for Tourism Australia that echo the film and feature the strapline "See the movie, see the country".

There have been rumours of rows between Luhrmann and 20th Century Fox over how the film should end, happily or sadly, and the director admitted yesterday that he felt under pressure.

The clichés that have irritated the critics include aboriginal children playing with boomerangs as the sun sets, herds of kangaroos, repetition of the word "crikey", Rolf Harris's wobble board and numerous wide shots of the outback.

'Australia', promoted as a cross between 'Gone with the Wind' and 'Out of Africa', stars Nicole Kidman as an English aristocrat who inherits her late husband's cattle station in the Northern Territory.

She falls in love with a man she hires to help her with the ranch, known only as the Drover, played by Hugh Jackman.

Some critics have said that the film is good but not great and doesn't live up to high expectations as the most expensive film in Australian history.

David Stratton, film critic for The Australian, said: "The film is not without flaws, it's not the masterpiece we were hoping for but I think you can say it's a very good film in many ways."

Anna Maria Nicholson of the Australian Broadcasting Corporation said: "There's no doubt that this film is indeed a landmark in Australian picture-making. But is it destined to become our 'Gone with the Wind' or 'Titanic'?"

Tourism Australia is hoping that the film will boost flagging visitor numbers in the same way that 'Crocodile Dundee' and its star Paul Hogan did two decades ago.

The film opens in the UK on December 26.

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