Judge Brett Cullum thinks The Tourist should stamp your passport for forcing you to watch.
Our review of The Tourist (Blu-Ray), published March 14th, 2011, is also available.
"Why is everyone trying to kill me?"—Frank Taylor
This is one of those big glossy Hollywood projects that works on paper far better than it does on the silver screen. The Tourist pairs up megastars Angelina Jolie (Salt) with Johnny Depp (Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl), and puts them in a romantic spy thriller that offers up light comedy in between the bullet ballets and PG-13 level sexual tension. It should be another sexy incarnation of The Thomas Crown Affair, but instead it ends up being a bland, rather lackluster spy flick that proves all too predictable. It's a bad episode of Moonlighting or The Scarecrow and Mrs. King at their worst, just made glossy. At least it has pretty scenery and gorgeous people to look at to pass our time, because otherwise this one would be a complete dud.
Facts of the Case
Frank (Depp) is on vacation in Europe, and a strangely exotic woman (Jolie) hits on him on a train. She invites the average Joe to come along to her fabulous hotel suite in Venice. Of course all of this proves too good to be true, because he's being set up to be mistaken for a man who has stolen a large amount of money from a crime syndicate. The police and several hit-men are soon chasing our poor "math teacher from Wisconsin" through Venetian canals trying to take him out or find his money. Meanwhile he's falling in love with the woman who has put a price on his head.
The whole thing was probably overcooked and not passionately played since it took so long to make. The Tourist had a long colorful development history in Hollywood, and was originally going to be a vehicle for Tom Cruise to play off Charlize Theron. At one point Sam Worthington was going to play Frank, but eventually it was Johnny Depp and Angelina Jolie who were signed on. Jolie revealed to Vogue readers that she only took the role because it would be a "quick shoot" in Venice with a chance to wear twelve fabulously fashioned outfits. Depp also liked the idea of spending time in Venice, and was looking for a more average role to counter his time spent playing a drunken pirate on the big screen and in real life. Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck signed on for directing duties after several negotiations, and he brought an independent Oscar-worthy street sense as he was best known for The Lives of Others. Seemed like the actors and directors were all set to give us an unlikely spy thriller. The trouble with The Tourist is that nothing truly works even though it tries like hell to find something to hold onto. Jolie and Depp have no real chemistry, and they just seem to have zero spark to carry off the romance elements. The plot is so predictable that none of the twists surprise or shock the viewer. As a thriller the stunts are rather tame, and the violence is toned down to insure a PG-13 rating. So we have an unbelievable romance, a cookie cutter plot, and bland violence mixed with lackluster stunts. Seems everyone was there for just a nice vacation, and unfortunately that spills right over in to the final product which is paced like a leisurely cruise or any other tourist destination vacation.
The DVD does a fine job with presenting the film. The transfer looks warm and handsome, even if the skin tones look a bit orange thanks to the use of a lot of filters to make people look younger than they are. The black levels have a nice depth, and there are no real issues with digital artifacts or noise reduction. The surround sound does a nice job immersing us in both the grandiose James Newton Howard score and all the explosive gun fire. It's a nice job all the way around. Supplements include a very short outtake reel, an animated alternate opening, and two featurettes that focus on costumes and production design. The real centerpiece of the extras is the director's commentary which works as a nice guide to "how did they do that" on most all of the sequences. It's a "how to" guide to make a mildly entertaining thriller, but film students should love it.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
I did love seeing Venice. And hey, Angelina Jolie and Johnny Depp are never hard to look at either. The movie looks gorgeous, and has really good bone structure juxtaposed with amazing architecture. Oh, and Timothy Dalton makes a cameo which is always fun to see. Made me wish I watching James Bond though.
The absolute best way to watch this film is to pretend you are about to view home movies of someone's fabulous vacation in Venice. Think of Angelina Jolie and Johnny Depp coming over to your place and showing you what they did over the summer in between their more blockbuster projects. The key to enjoying The Tourist is to simply sit back and admire the pretty places and the striking people as they pose and preen. It doesn't work as a romantic thriller, but it does offer a nice travel reel of Venice.
Guilty of being a mildly entertaining tour of Italy.
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