The Tourist

Giggle Along with the Malarkey

         
 

29 December 2010| No Comments     by Sean Chavel

 

Some viewers won’t find this substantial enough, but if you like fancy escapism set around the canals of Venice this could be a happy time. The Tourist is a ludicrous and outmoded plot involving a mystery woman (Angelina Jolie, “Salt”), a math teacher on holiday (Johnny Depp, “Finding Neverland”), and a missing person with a missing loot. Ludicrous and outmoded don’t necessarily have to be bad ingredients for a movie. It’s sublimely ludicrous, you see, with lots of lush locations and opulent costumes. This is the kind of light romantic caper that used to get made in the 1950’s with Audrey Hepburn or Grace Kelly. You don’t like 1950’s movies, fine, look somewhere else and you don’t have to bother yourself here.

It’s hard to find an actress more gorgeously statuesque today than Jolie. It’s hard to find an actor more quirky and off-beat than Depp, who here plays a schlep mistakenly tangled up in throes of danger. It might be easy though to be disappointed by an ending that inelegantly tries to pull the rug out from under us. Who out there can forgive a bad ending? It really betrays everything before it.

Paul Bettany is the determined cop and Timothy Dalton is the laid-back captain from Scotland Yard who gets fed up with zero leads and demands the case be dropped. Bettany is nevertheless a rogue cop always on the trail of Jolie’s character Elise (forget orders!), a mysterious woman with unlimited cash credit (as an indicator of poise, she glides more than she walks). Malarkey. Elise has been following a chain of notes all over Europe that will supposedly reunite her with her swank criminal boyfriend who has disappeared for more than a year, a boyfriend who is wanted by a ruthless gangster (Steven Berkoff, the villain from 80’s movies like “Beverly Hills Cop” and “Octopussy”). More malarkey.

Frank is just an introverted math teacher. Jolie sees Depp as the perfect mark to make the cops on her trail think that he is Alexander Pearce, her boyfriend. (Is Pearce actually played by Rufus Sewell of “Dark City,” who festers around without saying anything?) Depp is the unwitting decoy in what is supposed to be a harmless charade, as orchestrated by Jolie. But then gangsters, find him, as well as chase him on the rooftop while he’s in his pajamas. This particularly is a moment where you might recognize that “The Tourist” is different from other blockbusters. Depp treads klutzily, and slowly, for a genre chase scene. He’s the first character on a rooftop whose first concern is not the guns but whether he will fall off. Peculiar.

Many other peculiar elements make it into “The Tourist” which makes it, well, different. A boat chase through the canals, with one boat tugging a second boat occupying a handcuffed Depp, is not the “high-octane” action sequence most audiences will expect. It is a fairly low-speed, wobbly and fluky adventure. Some will appreciate this, more than some people won’t. And Depp himself tries to negotiate with everyone – Jolie, the police, evil captors – with ordinary, plain-speaking common sense. And he is generally unaccustomed to decadence but it’s amusing in how he tries to fit in fast instead of most movie characters that gawk endlessly in exotic surroundings.

Advanced reviews have complained that Jolie and Depp do not have any chemistry (I figured that, too, before going in). But the irregularity is that while Depp is in love with Jolie’s character, it doesn’t necessarily mean Jolie is in love with Depp. If you observe carefully, reading her facial expressions more than her words, she feels bad for him like one would feel for a stray puppy. The math teacher from Wisconsin is in love with a dazzling woman – for a math teacher it’s an honor just to be part of her life for a short period of time.

But the filmmakers must have been burdened by the studio to deliver a conventional happy ending because it dishonors its set course. For me, the happy ending was an unhappy ending – I groaned at the grinded plot switcheroo which made the film less charming than it was before they messed with it. Plastic Surgery! does not go with the rest of the movie.

Amusing once. Amusing twice. Amusing thrice. Three amusings is enough to give it a a minor recommendation.

104 minutes. Rated PG-13.

ACTION COMEDY / MILD & CHARMING / LAZY SUNDAY AFTERNOON VIEWING

Film Cousins: “To Catch a Thief” (1955); “North by Northwest” (1959); “Charade” (1963); “Benny and Joon” (1993).

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Sean Chavel

About The Author / Sean Chavel

Sean Chavel is a Hollywood based author and movie reviewer. He is the Executive Director of flickminute.com, a new website that has adapted the movie review site genre by introducing moodbased and movie experience based reviews.

 

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