Even Depp can't save 'Tourist'

Posted: Thursday, December 16, 2010

The filmmakers behind "The Tourist" must have thought they had a gold mine on their hands. An ever-alluring genre, exotic locations, good-looking superstars dominating the screen - all that, plus an interesting enough story, seems like it should be enough to keep you entertained for less than two hours.

But somehow it all falls flat. Actions seem contrived and actors seem to be phoning it in most of the time. Nothing on the screen gives much of an indication anyone involved had much in the way of personal investment in the project, rather they wanted to make something quickly that could be in the theaters before Christmas.

This is never a good thing for the movies at any time of the year, but it's particularly disappointing during the holidays, when studios typically put out big budget features that make you excited you can take some time off work and veg out in front of them. Too bad "The Tourist" mainly makes you wonder what else is playing during your break.

As I said, the story does sound good on paper. Capers usually do raise notice. There's something about the intrigue created by smart people trying to get away with something. But that's one of the downfalls of "The Tourist." Neither its leads nor the cops after them seem so smart, or even able to shoot straight. Everyone's merely there, filling a role and nothing more.

Angelina Jolie continues her pattern of playing sexy spies as Elise, a woman playing for both sides of the law. Her old team is now tailing her to find her former lover who has embezzled millions from the bad guys. This mystery man leaves her instructions to find someone similar-looking to act as decoy.

As luck would have it, she finds such a person almost immediately in Frank (Johnny Depp), the token stranger on a train. Frank, a schoolteacher, is touring Italy to take a break from his past. When Elise picks him out on the train, he won't have a choice. He's with her from that point on, either posing as her husband in a first-class exotic hotel or fleeing across rooftops in his pajamas as agents try to gun down their mistaken man. All because of a mysterious flirtation on a train.

But Jolie doesn't come across as mysterious here; she seems bored. Unlike her previous spy films, her role doesn't entail action or emotion. Her superpower is to look good, so much that she can elude her obvious followers simply by walking slowly into a crowd. This can make for an intriguing femme fatale in the right formula, but not when the actress is obviously disengaged.

On the other hand, Depp brings his ever-present charm. One of his generation's most versatile actors, Depp brings his brand of befuddled humor that makes him the only interesting person to watch here.

To give credit where it's due, "The Tourist" did give me an ending that I should have seen coming but still didn't. And surely that's worth something.



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