Friday, December 10, 2010
If you are booked to see "The Tourist" (opening December 10 throughout San Diego), then get yourself a new travel agent.
I'm sure the idea of casting Johnny Depp and Angelina Jolie together was irresistible to studio execs. I mean how could two of the most beautiful people in Hollywood possibly fail at the box office? Well if viewers are in the least bit discerning, "The Tourist" will tank at the box office. This is a film that would be more appropriate as a Vanity Fair photo layout because it's just about beautiful people looking beautiful. But as a film it fails on all counts.
"The Tourist" is actually a remake of a 2005 French film called "Anthony Zimmer" that starring Sophie Marceau and Yvan Attal. It was even going to be directed by acclaimed filmmaker Lasse Halstrom, and at different times had Sam Worthington, Tom Cruise and Charlize Theron attached to it. But they turn out to be the lucky ones now.
"The Tourist" aspires to be sleek and sexy romantic thriller. A British surveillance team is after Alexander Pearce but their only link to the mysterious target is a woman – Elise Clifton-Ward (Angelina Jolie). Pearce instructs her to pick a man on a train that is of a similar height and build to him. This leads the Brits as well as some Russian thugs into believing the poor guy is really Pearce. The man she selects is an American math teacher named Frank (Johnny Depp). But Frank turns out to be surprisingly game to prolong his mistaken identity if only to spend more time with the lovely Elise.
There was a moment when I thought maybe "The Tourist" could be like one of Hitchcock's fun, elegant thrillers like "To Catch a Thief." Unfortunately that moment was fleeting. Jolie is no Grace Kelly, Depp is no Cary Grant, and director Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck and is no Alfred Hitchcock. This trio doesn't even make good use of the travelogue locations. The only landscapes this film is interested in are Jolie's ass and Depp's cheekbones.
The script by Von Donnersmarck, Christopher McQuarrie and Julian Fellowes is completely lacking in wit and sophistication. I counted one witty dialogue exchange (that occurs between Frank and an Italian cop) and that was a throwaway scene. Depp and Jolie don't even get to spar verbally or engage in sexy banter. Aside from the opening scene and a poorly choreographed chase or two, the film moves like molasses on a cold day. Plus there is no cleverness to the plot machinations. The twists roll out with predictable regularity as the film languidly advances. All Von Donnersmarck seems to have on his mind is snapping picture postcards of his two leads. This film was so bad it made me long for "Mr. and Mrs. Smith." If Von Donnersmarck were honest he would have just rolled out a red carpet and let Jolie walk down it for the entire length of the film because all she does as Elsie is put on elegant clothes and jewelry, and walk around making everyone's head turn.
Oddly, Jolie and Depp don't stir much on screen chemistry. But maybe that's because the script is so tepid and their characters are so bland. They are easy on the eyes and occasionally fun to watch but this film needed something much smarter and sexier in order to succeed. The recent hit man comedy "Wild Target" (that came and went so fast it made my head spin) had a much better sense of humor, fun, and even sexiness. In "Wild Target," Bill Nighy and Emily Blunt were the unlikely couple but they displayed more sparks than A-list players Jolie and Depp. But I think if "The Tourist" had a smart script Depp and Jolie could have been quite delightful together. Donnersmarck, however, simply doesn't know what to do with them. It's hard to believe that he directed the subtle and sly "The Lives of Others" because there's no subtlety here and not much action either.
"The Tourist" (rated PG-13 for violence and brief strong language) is simply a trip not worth taking. Go see if you can find "Wild Target" or "To Catch a Thief" streaming somewhere instead.
Companion viewing: "Anthony Zimmer," "To Catch a Thief," "Wild Target," "Shiri"