Think Cary Grant. Think Grace Kelly. Think Audrey Hepburn.
And then, if you're thinking about The Tourist, with Johnny Depp and Angelina Jolie (who were perhaps thinking about Cary Grant, Grace Kelly, and Audrey Hepburn), well, think about adding To Catch a Thief or Charade to your Netflix queue instead.
An alarmingly charmless attempt to evoke the elegant romance and jaunty, jet-setting intrigue of the aforementioned titles, The Tourist is notable for the total absence of movie-star heat that movie stars are paid unseemly sums to radiate.
From its opening shots, of a dressed-to-kill Jolie sashaying down a Paris rue on her way to morning tea, The Tourist feels amiss. We soon discover that she's a woman named Elise, and that a posse of international coppers are watching her every move (and debating whether she's wearing underwear or not). If Trey Parker and Matt Stone want to make another marionette genre parody - the South Park duo's all-puppet Team America: World Police took aim at action pics - they could cast Jolie as their lead. In her heels and wraps and sculpted 'dos, she bobs with the slightly awkward air of a doll on strings. Grace(less) Kelly.
Of course, Elise is British, which makes her even classier. And which makes the community college math teacher she picks up on the Paris-Venice bullet train look even more like a Midwestern bumpkin. He is Frank Tupelo. He reads spy novels. He is on vacation. And he is played, with scruffy beard and pasty complexion, by Mr. Depp.
It's no puzzle why Elise has sidled up to Professor Tupelo. It's literally spelled out for us (with very tidy penmanship) in a letter delivered to her cafe table: She needs to cozy up to a sucker that the spyware guys will think is her on-the-lam beau, an international criminal who has embezzled millions.
Scotland Yard, Interpol, some Russian thugs - they're all after this mystery man. Frank is the clueless decoy.
The Tourist is the first Hollywood film from Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck, who won an Oscar for his East German police-state drama, The Lives of Others. But apart from the stakeout scenes and the bugging scenes and the cops with their coffee cups watching wistfully as their subjects hob and nob and wine and dine, the two films could have been made by different people. On different planets. The Lives of Others was a profoundly moving (and chilling) study of longing - for political, artistic, and spiritual freedom. The Tourist is a profoundly pointless and pace-challenged exercise in escapism, with a script that aims for sophistication and wit and settles for exposition and witlessness.
Depp delivers one or two dry bon mots, but they're addressed to a Venice police detective (Christian De Sica), not to his leading lady. And the pajamas Depp can be seen wearing during a rooftop chase, while awfully cute, unfortunately help to endorse the notion that the actor has been sleepwalking through his entire performance.