Thoughtful reviews, the Boulder film scene

" I can safely say at this point that we are lost. "
— Heather Donahue, The Blair Witch Project

MRQE Top Critic

Winsor McCay -- The Master Edition

A new DVD offers an opportunity to see films by a master of animation —Andrea Birgers (DVD review...)

Gertie the Dinosaur, born of Winsor McCay

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When the tour guides have names like Jolie and Depp and the locales are Paris and Venice, sit back, relax, and enjoy the ride.

Jolie and Depp: Strangers on a train
Jolie and Depp: Strangers on a train

Ahhh... Venice

There are one... two... three... ummm... four leaps of faith required to follow the story of The Tourist. No. Wait. There are five.

The first is a gimme that involves Scotland Yard miraculously using computer magic to piece back together the ashes of a note and successfully deciphering the message in time to catch a train.

The last leap is a doozie (the less said about it, the better), but in between them are nearly two hours of Angelina Jolie and Johnny Depp carousing through Paris and Venice. It’s a bubbly, intoxicating concoction that generates enough of a heady buzz to make that last leap more agreeable than egregious.

All the shenanigans surround the dirty dealings of one Alexander Pearce, who owes the British government £744 in back taxes. The guy also stole $2.3 billion from a gangster, so there are two staunch and resolute parties out to get Alexander’s hide.

But, with a bank account in the billions, life can be pretty darn good, no matter how many people want Alexander pilloried. Part of that goodness comes in the love of Elise Ward (Jolie), who is the beneficiary of Alexander’s amorous ways, enjoying a very lavish lifestyle that includes a whole new wardrobe of designer gowns and jewelry in the closet of her first-class Venetian hotel. Of course, the room also comes with a stellar view of the Grand Canal.

South by Southeast

The question is, who the heck is Alexander Pearce?

The Tourist is a fluffy caper flick based on the French movie Anthony Zimmer, starring Sophie Marceau. At least at the outset, The Tourist is reminiscent of North by Northwest, wherein Cary Grant is mistaken for George Kaplan, a fictional concoction of the U.S. government.

That’s not to say The Tourist hangs together as well as Hitchcock’s masterpiece, and the two movies wind up going in vastly different directions. But Depp and Jolie generate a spark akin to Grant and Eva Marie Saint. And while Hitch had James Mason, Martin Landau, and Leo Carroll, von Donnersmarck has Timothy Dalton, Paul Bettany, and Rufus Sewell.

Depp plays Frank Tupelo, a meek math teacher from Wisconsin who’s on a solo European trip. Quiet and mild-mannered, Frank’s a good guy who lost his wife in a car accident a few years earlier. When Frank meets Elise in a (second-class) cabin on a Venice-bound train, the excitement quotient in his life picks up exponentially.

Alas, Elise is only using Frank as a decoy for Alexander’s wheeling and dealing. When the two kiss, it puts Scotland Yard and the gangsters on notice that they’ve finally found their man.

The Lives of Others

The Tourist is Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck’s first movie since his The Lives of Others won the Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film in 2007. Unlike that drama, The Tourist is a light farce that is every bit as much about the humor as it is the mystery.

After the first failed hit on Frank’s life, in the hotel room with a view, an Italian police officer tells Frank that attempted murder isn’t all that serious. Frank calmly replies that while attampted murder is a downgrade from murder, it’s definitely an upgrade from room service.

It’s that humorous vibe that provides enough of a wink to make all those leaps of faith acceptable enough. And it’s Depp who supplies the lion’s share of that humor, with chuckles courtesy of Frank repeatedly butchering whatever language he’s speaking, including English. While transfixed by Elise’s beauty, he says, “You’re ravenous” instead of “You’re ravishing.”

Depp’s soft-spoken delivery provides a sweetness and innocence to Frank, the misspoken mathematician.

As unfluent as Frank may be, he is right, though. Jolie is indeed ravishing, perhaps more than ever.