The Tourist

Some ideas are good on paper, but when the scenario actually plays out – the result is disappointing. Like whoever thought of putting the peanut butter and the jelly in the jar together instead of keeping them separate.  That’s how I felt about the not-so-dynamic duo of Angelina Jolie and Johnny Depp.  They certainly seem hot enough to melt the screen independently, so surely if they joined forces the result would be sizzling, right? Eh. Sometimes I think two like beings actually repel one another.  The Tourist may have been nice to look at, but it sure wasn’t fun to watch.

The Tourist is a stylish movie that does a good job of fooling you with pretty scenery, from the always lovely Jolie to the beautiful European setting.  However, once you get past the fancy façade, The Tourist falls flat.  Window dressing does not a good movie make.  Jolie stars as Elise, a mysterious woman who is introduced in the film as the glamorous subject of police surveillance.  We don’t know if she is an undercover officer or the criminal subject of an investigation.  We learn that she is meeting her lover, a man named Alexander Pierce.  Instead of showing up, Pierce leaves a note for her with specific instructions.  She is to pick a stranger with his same basic physical characteristics, and pretend that the stranger is him.  Ostensibly this is to throw her police followers off the trail.  We don’t know if she is in cahoots with Pierce in some criminal enterprise or if she’s just doing a job.  Enter Depp as Frank, the hapless American tourist who has the misfortune of being in the wrong place at the wrong time.  When he stumbles upon the beautiful Elise, he protests only mildly that she seems to have the wrong guy.  The police aren’t the only ones interested in Pierce.  It seems that he stole a couple billion dollars from a gangster named Reginald Shaw, who of course will move heaven and earth to get it back.  Now everyone is after Pierce (Frank), including the police and Shaw.  The police learn early on that it’s a case of mistaken identity and that the tourist whom Elise has latched onto is an innocent American schoolteacher named Frank Tupelo, not a billionaire thief named Alexander Pierce.  At some point they become involved again because Elise can’t seem to get rid of Frank.  That’s right.  Initially she was all over him when she needed everyone to think that Frank was Pierce, but now she is trying to ditch him.  What I’ve described so far may sound intriguing, but let me spare you the trouble.  The Tourist never really found its identity; it was a mishmash of genres – none of which really worked.  The plot was a nonsensical cat and mouse story that underwhelmed me and left me feeling a bit cheated.  There was a continuous veiled attempt to ratchet up suspense, but the payoff was extremely disappointing.  Johnny Depp is always charming, and Angelina Jolie is breathtaking – but it takes more than star power to make a good movie.  I was left with more questions than answers.  Why does Frank go along with Elise so willingly, even after nearly getting killed?  Is Elise really Pierce’s girlfriend or was she undercover the entire time?  At one point the police actually abandon their investigation of Pierce because all he did was steal from a gangster and he has “good taste in women,” so really they should just tip their hat to him. What?

I don’t know what’s worse: the fact that two such talented actors were grossly misused, or the fact that they both signed up for this dud.  The Tourist has plenty of panache, but it was all flash and no substance.  If you want to watch a smart, sexy, well-paced caper type of film I suggest you dust off The Thomas Crown Affair, a movie that had a little substance to go with all the style.

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