Sunday, December 19, 2010

“The Tourist” – How to make Venice ugly.

After seeing The Tourist and thinking about what I wanted to write, it occurred to me that in the three years I’ve been reviewing movies, I couldn’t remember any that featured Angelina Jolie. This wasn’t much of a surprise to me since I think she is one of the worst actresses in Hollywood and I avoid her movies like the dentist. But I still should have accidentally watched one, right? When I looked back at my list, I discovered that I had reviewed one film, though not a recent one; Alexander. The funny thing is that both movies have some things in common. Overall, both films were bad, Jolie attempts an accent (Russian in Alexander, British in The Tourist) and fails miserably, Jolie attempts acting and fails miserably, and her character is being portrayed as an unparalleled beauty – and fails miserably.

I understand that people have different tastes, but I think Kevin Pollack said it best when he joked that her lips are sexy for about three seconds and then they’re just creepy. This movie makes that statement exceptionally true as they are the only part of her body with any fat. There were dozens of scenes showing random people gawking at Jolie (Elise) as though they were transfixed by her beauty. What they were actually stunned by was the ability to see through Jolie’s emaciated body and pick out the hors d’oeuvre they wanted next to eat. Regardless of her consistently bony, lippy face, she at least used to have a nice body. Now, she looks like she’s ready to audition for her next role – as Skeletor.

This highlights the biggest problem with this movie – it’s all about Jolie. I don’t know who is to blame, but it seems that neither the writers nor director read their own title. The movie is called The Tourist, which automatically makes the audience think the movie will be about Johnny Depp’s character (Frank), a.k.a. the tourist. The story revolves around Interpol’s attempts to use Frank as a pawn to catch their real target, Alexander Pearce, but they spend so much time massaging Jolie’s ego that the audience isn’t sure they should care about anyone else. The only thing the filmmakers accomplished was wasting true talent in Depp and Paul Bettany (Interpol agent Acheson).

The plot itself is another large problem with this movie. The reason Interpol is after Pearce is for – you might want to sit down for this – tax evasion. They claim he owes 744 million pounds in back taxes from the two billion pounds he stole from his former employer/gangster and they want their cut. Further muddling the plot is that Elise is an undercover agent who was assigned to bring Pearce in, but went off the grid after falling in love with him. However, she hasn’t seen him for months and Interpol is tailing her, hoping to catch a break. As mentioned earlier, Frank is being used by Interpol because he has been mistaken for Pearce. At first, Interpol thought he was Pearce as well, but quickly learned that he was simply an American teacher on vacation. Ridiculously, the gangsters that he stole the money from also believe Frank is Pearce even though they worked together. If you’re following along, the movie revolves around a mistaken identity where Interpol is the only one that doesn’t know what Pearce looks like, but know that Frank isn’t Pearce. I was so bored with the story that anytime they showed shots of Venice, I was just looking for St. Mark’s and shops that I had visited when I was there. And just to prove that these guys are the opposite of creative, I told my wife that there was a twist at the end and she immediate guessed what it was, though she’d only seen a couple of previews of the film.

Another glaring problem was the music. The movie is about secret agents, gangsters, dirty money, and Frank escaping death several times. Yet, the music is light and airy, as if we’re on a stroll with Mary Poppins and will be dancing with penguins at any moment. I think they were trying to recreate something similar to To Catch a Thief or How to Steal a Million, but someone forgot to remind the director that Jolie isn’t half the beauty or talent of Grace Kelly or Audrey Hepburn.

There were also a lot of little problems that helped to drag the film down even further. When Interpol is tailing Elise, they are using the most conspicuous van possible and following her at a distance of only a few feet. In one scene, they practically run her over in their scrambling to keep up with her. Another is the non-existent chemistry between Frank and Elise. The film is supposed to be a romantic thriller, but they have about as much fire as if they were visiting their in-laws. This also exposed another problem with Depp’s character or lack thereof. Depp was the one hope this film had of succeeding and he portrayed the roll as if he didn’t want to be there. It seemed like he read the script, signed on to the film, then was handed the real script and couldn’t get out of it. To his credit, he still performed better than Jolie.

Because I have no deadlines for my reviews, I lucked into another bit of fun and disturbing information: the Golden Globe nominations. Not only was this film nominated for best motion picture – comedy or musical (really, comedy?), but Jolie and Depp were both nominated for best actor and actress in the same category. Even if they were deserving of the acting nods (I just snorted milk out my nose), this movie was anything but a comedy or musical. That fact alone proves that this movie was, at best, a confusing mess and that whoever picks the nominations probably never even watched the film. I wish I hadn’t.

Rating: Ask for all but a dollar back. Venice is nice to look at, but they ruin it with Jolie.

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