Blu-ray Review: The Tourist (2010)

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Against all odds, the first onscreen pairing of walking magazine cover Angelina Jolie and crush-worthy character actor Johnny Depp generates so little heat that physicists may want to study it on a molecular level in order to identify a new natural energy alternative to air conditioning.

And because with enough money, talent and cutting edge technology filmmakers can fake anything but romantic chemistry, the iceberg connection between the A-listers ultimately drowns out The Tourist’s otherwise spectacular production values, manifesting into a sophomore slump of Titanic proportions for Oscar winning Lives of Others director Florian Henckel Von Donnersmarck.

Using the original source material of Oscar winning Usual Suspects and Gosford Park screenwriters Christopher McQuarrie and Julian Fellowes’s adaptation of Jérôme Salle’s 2005 French romantic thriller Anthony Zimmer as an overall blueprint, in his final, hasty pre-production rewrite, Von Donnersmarck attempts to filter the Hitchcockian adventurous chase motif through escapist romantic fare.

A cross between a travelogue and a catalogue featuring breathtaking European locales sumptuously photographed by English Patient cinematographer John Seale and runway ready couture designed by Memoirs of a Geisha costumer Colleen Atwood, beauty runneth over in this stylistic throwback to globetrotting tales of romantic intrigue from the ‘50s and the ‘60s.

Unfortunately, the glamorous visual sophistication is awkwardly matched with an illogical and at times even embarrassingly clunky screenplay that doesn’t easily lend itself to seduction as Depp’s college professor character drops the f-bomb when faced with Jolie dressed in her finest eveningwear before telling her that she looks “ravenous.”

Despite Depp’s enthusiasm under pressure and willingness to fully commit to each increasingly ridiculous scene, you just can’t picture Cary Grant delivering the same lines to Audrey Hepburn in Charade or Grace Kelly in To Catch a Thief.

Likewise, while it fails on both levels, the fact that we’re uncertain whether or not that scene is meant to be romantic or humorous makes it easier to understand why even the Hollywood Foreign Press Association had to ask Von Donnersmarck to decide if his film should be categorized as a drama or a comedy… before it was conspicuously nominated for three Comedy Golden Globes.

Though going for an old-fashioned feel in a new-fashioned production, it’s infinitely less successful than the engaging remake of The Thomas Crown Affair and nowhere near as fun – especially from a chemistry perspective– as Soderbergh’s inventive Ocean’s Trilogy.

Von Donnersmarck’s Tourist is likewise upstaged by filmmaker James Mangold’s thematically similar, big-budget, A-list romantic globetrotter production Knight and Day, ironically starring the man who walked away from The Tourist years earlier in the form of Tom Cruise.

A gold digger of a movie – made of money to get your money – even a picture-perfect museum quality Blu-ray transfer can’t hide the fact that the only thing The Tourist has going for it is looks.

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FTC Disclosure: Per standard professional practice, I received a review copy of this title in order to evaluate it for my readers, which had no impact whatsoever on whether or not it received a favorable or unfavorable critique.