The first disappointment of the holiday movie season has reared its head — Baz Luhrmann’s much-anticipated Australia fails to deliver on its high expectations. The Aussie director's long-gestating follow-up to Moulin Rouge founders despite the presence of bona-fide movie stars who can also act — fellow Aussies Nicole Kidman and Hugh Jackman — both whom deserve better than this well-meaning but bloated pastiche of numerous old-school genre epics. —-
Of course, I’m the same guy who was left wanting by Luhrmann’s Moulin Rouge, a film so drunk on its whirling, fevered stylistic choices that it makes Michael Bay look like Ozu.
Unfortunately, there’s not much to pick up the slack this week. Vince Vaughn continues his uneven track record with another mediocre holiday comedy, and Jason Stathem continues to milk his Transporter action series for all it’s worth.
On the plus side, look for the latest Transporter installment to pick up where the second one left off — reveling in the most ludicrous car-based action scenes since Sylvester Stallone’s Cobra, an unintentional camp masterpiece from 1986. Don’t recall this overlooked Sly gem? Maybe this will refresh your memory:
AUSTRALIA — Baz Luhrmann’s ambitious epic isn’t as bad as the Jerry Bruckheimer/Michael Bay dog Pearl Harbor, largely because it stars quality actors with legitimate romantic appeal — Nicole Kidman and Hugh Jackman. But it’s still a long way from David Lean. (Read full-length review here.) — Steven Rosen (Rated PG-13.) Grade: C-
FOUR CHRISTMASES — The idea of broken and blended families might be a funny subject for a holiday comedy if there was the possibility for mending or actual melding of pieces into a greater whole. But the trailers for Four Christmases make this seem like a broad laugher with energetic wisecracking from holiday fruitcake Vince Vaughn, who seems to be locked into a disturbing trend of appearing in Christmas-themed movies of no discernible merit. To be fair, Four Christmases features the irrepressible Reese Witherspoon, along with Jon Voight, Mary Steenburgen, Robert Duvall and Sissy Spacek, as well as Jon Favreau. Voight and Steenburgen play Witherspoon’s divorced parents, while Duvall and Spacek are Vaughn’s, and once you get past all of the big jokey moments from the previews, there are a few scattered instances where this talented crew settles in and lets the thin story come to them. The problem beyond the negligible narrative is Vaughn. He brings his own outsized personality to the mix, which works well when going for the laughs, but he’s not strong enough to carry the dramatic moments, especially opposite the likes of Witherspoon and Duvall, both of whom can turn on a dime from slapstick to heartfelt emotion. Given time and a few more appearances in the likes of Into the Wild and Vaughn be a welcome member of this reconstituted acting family. — tt stern-enzi (Rated PG-13.) Grade: D
TRANSPORTER 3 — There shouldn’t be much mystery left to the character of the mercilessly efficient driver Frank (Jason Statham) in this adrenaline-injected series from the pen of Luc Besson. He takes jobs no one else can handle and lives by a set of rigid rules that he breaks as often as he shifts gears on the road. The storylines barely matter, like this one that ties Frank to the delivery of a mysterious human package (which turns out to be the daughter of a European politician preparing to sign off on legislation to ban toxic waste while a huge tanker of said waste waits to be dumped) within a certain timeframe or else. The or else in this case is that he and his precious cargo will explode thanks to the detonator bracelets each of them wears. The bracelets are set to go off if they end up more than so many meters from the car. So much that amounts to so little. It might remind audiences of Speed, or not. I honestly don’t believe Besson or director Olivier Megaton care enough to be bothered by such considerations and don’t try to fight the mindless attraction of Frank driving and kicking his way through an endless procession of baddies because Statham will pummel you into submission and drag you along against your will. — tts (Rated PG-13.) Grade: D