By Bill Wine
KYW Newsradio 1060
Jolie. Depp. Paris. Venice. Star power The Tourist has got. In spades. Tourist attractions and handsome stuff to look at, too. Plus a director coming off an Oscar-winning project who collaborated on the screenplay with the Oscar-winning writers of The Usual Suspects and Gosford Park.
Wrong. This remake of the 2005 French thriller Anthony Zimmer is a dreadful romantic spy thriller, a Hitchcockian thriller so lacking in charm, humor, sophistication, and romance, so far south of North by Northwest, that it makes us appreciate Hitchcock’s skills and artistry all the more.
Depp is title-character Frank Tupelo, a math teacher from Wisconsin visiting Venice and Paris while mending a broken heart.
He eventually learns that she has a boyfriend whom lots of angry folks (some government authorities and some underworld operators) are after because he has stolen millions of pounds from them.
And because they think that Frank might be him, which Elise does nothing to contradict, Frank becomes a pawn in a dangerous game of international intrigue.
Paul Bettany gets a decent amount of screen time as the Scotland Yard agent on the tail of the lead pair, Timothy Dalton is his boss, Steven Berkoff plays the vicious mobster looking for money he’s owed, and Rufus Sewell is, well, somebody who keeps turning up.
But they’re just along for the ride to give the stars an occasional breather.
The German director Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck — whose superb debut feature, The Lives of Others, won the Oscar for best foreign language film in 2006 — aims for a throwback cat-and-mouse thriller that recalls such set-in-Europe divertissements as To Catch a Thief and Charade. But what he ends up with is a film that looks like a travelogue and sounds, far too often, like a Monty Python sketch.
The script, which he collaborated on with estimable scenarists Christopher McQuarrie and Julian Fellowes, trots out pointless scene after pointless scene, as if the trio of screenwriters were trying not to upstage each other.
Not to worry: they didn’t.
The leisurely pacing would be a lot more palatable if there were some meat on the movie’s bone. Instead, the film is so light, it threatens to float away like an untethered balloon; so languid, it seems to be moving underwater half the time. And the action scenes too often look like exercises in slipshod slapstick.
Depp and Jolie, bona fide superstars paired on-screen for the first time, with Depp as the traditional Everyman and Jolie as the just-as-traditional Femme Fatale, have minimal chemistry.
Well, that’s being kind; she plays it so arch and he so straight, they’re barely in the same movie.
But in their defense, the script they’re saddled with plunks them down in a wholly preposterous narrative that paints itself into such an impossible corner, the last of the film’s many twists turns the whole enterprise into a parody of itself.
And neither of their characters adds up. Depp doesn’t do much with a role that was already wrongheadedly conceived, and Jolie overplays the assuredness posture without ever removing the frozen smug expression from her face. This pairing of two such luminous stars turns out to be curiously flat.
So we’ll steer the gondola toward just 1½ stars out of 4 for the eye-candy travesty, The Tourist. This botched mystery caper turns the audience’s chance to gaze at two of the movie world’s top stars into a pity party in which we feel almost as sorry for them as we do for ourselves.