by Ryan Hill
On paper, “The Tourist” should be a sure-fire blockbuster. The film features two of the biggest movie stars on the planet, Johnny Depp and Angelina Jolie, a lush, beautiful setting in Venice and a plot that promises twists and turns at every corner. So, what exactly went wrong?
Depp stars as Frank Tupelo, a Wisconsin math teacher who meets the sultry, gorgeous Elise (Jolie) on a train. The two strike up a conversation, and things seem to be going aces for Frank. What he doesn’t realize, though, is Elise has chosen Frank because of his resemblance to her boyfriend, Alexander Pierce, a mysterious man on the run for stealing more than $2 billion from a gangster. Soon everyone seems to think that Frank is Pierce, from Scotland Yard to the local Venice police and even the gangster Pierce stole from. With this case of mistaken identity, the chase is on.
But there really isn’t much of a chase or anything else for that matter. Director Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck spends most of the movie taking in either the sights of Venice with extended crane shots or the film’s stars sitting in various spots around the city, trying to make them look like a classic movie couple. Sadly, it takes more than clever lighting and pretty locations to make Depp and Jolie a classic couple à la Cary Grant and Grace Kelly or even Steve Carrell and Tina Fey from this year’s “Date Night.”
Von Donnersmarck, who won a Best Foreign Language Film Oscar for 2006’s “The Lives of Others,” refuses to put any kind of stylistic stamp on the film, instead opting for a light, breezy feel that goes in one ear and right out the other. Think of this film as a poor man’s version of Steven Soderbergh’s “Ocean’s Twelve,” itself a mediocre romp through Europe, albeit with a few twists and turns.
Any film as light and breezy as “The Tourist” must have something to hang its hat on, or else it will float away into obscurity. You could use chemistry so hot it could start a fire, snappy dialogue, action that leaves you on the edge of your seat or a plot that keeps you guessing until the end, regardless of its complexity.
Unfortunately, the chemistry is killed by a toned down Depp trying to act uncool – which, as it turns out, is impossible for him – making Elise’s attraction to his character that much more baffling. This is a beautiful woman of intrigue and means. What the heck is she doing with some schlubby math teacher in need of a haircut?
The dialogue is run-of-the-mill, thanks to Depp’s wimpy Frank and a supporting cast of clichéd characters, led by Paul Bettany as a Scotland Yard inspector who’ll stop at nothing to get his man, a character rarely seen in previous films. The action is slow and tedious, just like the rest of the movie, and the plot is about 20 twists short of being worthy of the talent involved.
Under normal circumstances, the combination of Depp’s cool and Jolie’s sultriness should be enough to make any movie theater spontaneously combust into flames, and one day they may make a film together that does just that. In the meantime, they’re playing second fiddle to 2010’s best on-screen couple: Steve Carell and Tina Fey.
Grade: 1.5/4 Stars