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The Tourist

(2010) * 1/2 Pg-13
104 min. Columbia Pictures. Director: Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck. Cast: Johnny Depp, Angelina Jolie, Paul Bettany, Timothy Dalton, Raoul Bova, Rufus Sewell.

/content/films/3900/2.jpgSaying what we’re all thinking, Johnny Depp turns to Angelina Jolie and sighs, “You are the least down-to-earth person I have ever met.” It’s one of the precious few notable moments in The Tourist, a talent-squandering “comic” “adventure” positioned as a shopping-break movie for the holidays.

Depp and Jolie essentially play themselves in this hapless attempt at a romantic romp: the former a goof itching to take on new roles, and the latter an unearthly creature who makes every sidewalk her runway. Jolie puts her inaccessibility to work for the part of Elise Clifton-Ward, a person of interest to police tracking her elusive boyfriend Alexander Pearce. Pearce owes $744 million in back taxes to the British government, but that’s nothing; he also stole $2.3 billion from gangster Reginald Shaw (Steven Berkoff).

As part of his plan to keep breathing, Pearce sends missives to Elise, directing her how to throw Scotland Yard and Shaw’s Russian thugs off his trail. His latest scheme forces Elise to pick out a suitably built stranger and convince her observers that the stranger is Pearce. Strutting and pouting her way from train car to train car (another runway), Elise lights on Frank Tupelo (Depp) and immediately begins schooling him in flirtation: “You read spy novels. I’m a mysterious woman on a train. You tell me what my story is.” (Call it a confession that The Tourist is the worst of paperback travel reads.)

The train is bound for Venice, so Elise sweeps Frank off his feet and into the poshest of suites at the famed Hotel Danieli. Before you can say “mistaken identity,” a barefoot, pajama-clad Frank is scampering across the old tile roofs of Venice, Russian gangsters in hot pursuit. Director Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck (The Lives of Others) shows no particular knack for staging action and even less for stoking laughs, which makes this chemistry-free romantic action comedy—if not a chore —dispiritingly, dully familiar.

Since The Tourist is a remake of the 2005 French film Anthony Zimmer, originality is perhaps not to be expected. Make no mistake: money has been thrown, at great quantities, onto the screen, in no small part to gather an international cast that includes Rufus Sewell, Raoul Bova, and Paul Bettany and Timothy Dalton as the men from Scotland Yard, and purchase a flop-sweatily sprightly score by James Newton Howard.

But there’s a reason the production was troubled from the get go: anxiety about a senseless, very nearly witless script (credited to Henckel von Donnersmarck and, bafflingly two Oscar winners: Christopher McQuarrie and Julian Fellowes) that will have even the most casual viewer scoffing, particularly at plot twists that would be wholly obvious were they not so absurd. As shot by Oscar winner John Seale, Venice is pretty alright, but like its namesake (or, for that matter, like a kidney stone), The Tourist is just passing through.

[This review first appeared in Palo Alto Weekly.]

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Aspect ratios: 2.40:1

Number of discs: 2

Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1

Street date: 3/22/2011

Distributor: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

The Tourist comes to home video in a Blu-ray + DVD combo pack (also a single-disc Blu-ray) flaunting a picture-perfect hi-def image and impressive lossless audio: par for the course for industry leader Sony. The highly detailed and lovingly textured picture blazes with vibrant color and Venetian beauty: fine contrast and rock-solid black level contribute to the sense of depth, and the crystal clarity doesn't sacrifice the picture's film-like quality, since light grain is retained. The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix ably handles the film's ambience, effects, and music, with enough separation give one's home theater some exercise (without exactly "breaking a sweat").

Bonus features begin with audio commentary by director Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck, who covers the bases of the film's inception and production, along with style, character analysis, and casting.

"Canal Chats" (6:01, HD) takes an unusual tack for talking-head cast and crew interviews: conducting them on the water in Venice.

"A Gala Affair" (7:12, HD) looks at the shooting of the elaborate ball sequence, while "Action in Venice" (6:29, HD) similarly addresses an action sequence.

"Bringing Glamour Back" (9:08, HD) focuses on the film's sense of style.

"Tourist Destination —Travel the Canals of Venice" (3:17, HD) is an oddly brisk montage of cast comments on the film's location.

Rounding out the Blu-ray disc are an "Alternate Animate Title Sequence" (2:14, HD) and "Outtake Reel" (1:26, HD).

Review gear:
Panasonic Viera TC-P55VT30 55" Plasma 1080p 3D HDTV
Oppo BDP-93 Universal Network 3D Blu-ray Disc Player
Denon AVR2112CI Integrated Network A/V Surround Receiver
Pioneer SP-BS41-LR Bookshelf Speaker (2)
Pioneer SP-C21 Center Speaker
Pioneer SW-8 Subwoofer

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