Does this suck.
It's not QUITE "Twilight" awful (i.e. everyone's favorite Mormon Vampire Abstinence Porn blockbuster will remain the worst thing I've seen all year for the forseeable future) but it's up there. Think "Pearl Harbor" bad. Think "Transformers" bad.
Baz Luhrman is one of those filmmakers who I like in principal even while despising most of his movies. I understand that they have their defenders and even genuine fans, but Moulin Rouge and Romeo + Juliet are easily two of the most brutally terrible things I've ever had to sit through. The guy has an eye for cinema, he knows how to stage a scene, he's got good taste in actors and he can coax that rare playfulness (or even WARMTH) from Nicole Kidman... I just wish he'd put all this to use in movies that don't suck.
Also - and not that this is his "fault" or anything - but have you ever noticed that lots of the same critics who turn up their noses at, say, Robert Rodriguez or post-"Kill Bill" Tarantino for their indulgence in deliberate reference to the movie-ness of their movies have NO apparent issue with Luhrman, even though he's every bit the conossieur of cinematic reference? I guess when you're callbacks are to Busby Berkley and Judy Garland instead of Chang Cheh and Pam Grier, that makes it "okay."
Anyway, the idea here is for Luhrman to stage a big "old hollywood" melodrama epic about his homeland as if it had been staged in the actual Golden Age. It's a nice idea, but the follow-through is all over the map. Half of the time the characters are acting like the elevated caricatures of pre-method actorly bravado, the other half of the time they're "normal." Half the time it looks like a Technicolor road-show, half the time it looks like Saving Private Ryan.
The story is so predictable you can plot the entire film note-for-note based on a single mammoth chunk of exposition in the first five minutes: Nicole Kidman is a British aristocrat who needs a Drover ("aussie cowboy") played by Hugh Jackman to help her move beef cattle across the outback to break a land baron's monopoly. A conspiracy murder mystery, political commentary, the Stolen Generation of half-caste Aboriginal children and the WWII Japanese bombing of Darwin all conspire to keep them from settling down for 2 1/2 hours while you tick off how many "historical epic" cliches Luhrman can bungle within that running time. If you're not laughing by the time Aborigini Gandalf shows up to start throwing the magic around, you're probably one of Luhrman's financiers.