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Posted at 10:20 AM ET, 12/ 9/2010

Why Angelina Jolie and Johnny Depp may not be enough to save 'The Tourist'

By Jen Chaney

Johnny Depp and Angelina Jolie, just cruisin' in "The Tourist." (Sony)

Star power doesn't always translate into fine cinema. Might that be the case for the new Angelina-Jolie-seduces-Johnny-Depp caper "The Tourist"?

The star of "Salt" and the actor who made America fall in love with a drunken pirate team up for the first time in this Euro-thriller. The prospect of the intense, sexy pair playing onscreen lovers sounds like a recipe for steamy, high-quality Hollywood escapism, right?

Except that -- if early reviews are to be believed -- it isn't.

A smattering of critical takes on "The Tourist," and what that reception may tell us about why we go to the movies, follows after the jump.

To be fair, quite a few critics have yet to weigh in on "The Tourist." But the ones who have are not terribly kind. Hence, the 23%-positive rating currently associated with the film on Rotten Tomatoes.

Entertainment Weekly's Owen Gleiberman gives the movie a C overall, and doles out even lower marks to Jolie and Depp for their performances:

"As Elise, who is being chased by everyone in the movie because they're out to capture her lover, the slinky, saucy Jolie turns every scene into a playful series of poses," he writes. "After a while, though, you wish she'd stop posing."

Of our male lead, he says: "Depp, for too much of the movie, seems to be amusing himself in a way that only dogs can hear."

Tom McCarthy of The Hollywood Reporter has a similar take: "It's woefully clear from their first scene together that, not only is there nothing clicking between the stars, but that the entire enterprise is madly artificial and silly, that whatever games are being played here are not going to be fun."

But Nigel Andrews of London's Financial Times may win the prize for the most negative "Tourist" review thus far: "Arrange an appointment in Sumatra. Go to the moon. At all costs stay away. The two stars give the appearance of having had a numbing drug administered before the movie. Jolie pouts with inanition, Depp’s self-effacing performance looks like a bid for deniability: 'I was never in this film.'"

As we all well know, movie reviews are incredibly subjective. Plenty of people may see "The Tourist," like it and not think that a trip to Indonesia would have been a better option than watching Jolie and Depp at their nearest AMC theater. Still, given the movie's backstory, the less than gushing reception is not terribly surprising.

The script went through numerous rewrites. Director Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck -- who won an Academy Award for the very serious drama "The Lives of Others" -- has never handled a fluffy, high-profile Hollywood picture before. And, perhaps most importantly, the stars of "The Tourist" seemed to view the opportunity as a chance to take a break. ''I wanted to do something that would be a great vacation for my kids,'' Jolie told Entertainment Weekly in a recent cover story. ''I got a phone call saying, 'Okay, the film's shooting in Venice,' and I said, 'I don't know what it is, but I'm going to say yes.'''

Hey, can't blame her. Who among us wouldn't agreed to be paid to go to Venice and pretend to be besotted with Johnny Depp?

But if the film's box office performance winds up being as unimpressive as some of these early critical assessments, "The Tourist" will likely be pointed to as yet another example of the decreasing importance of movie stars.

Once upon a time, studios believed that if you stuck a Tom Cruise or a Tom Hanks or a Julia Roberts in a film, mega-cash flow would inevitably follow. But that era is long gone.

While our culture seems hungrier than ever to ingest celebrity coverage, we don't necessarily want to watch celebrities on a big screen unless there's a pretty compelling narrative (or at least a pre-established franchise) to back up the star power. If the top grossing movies of this year are any indication, what we want are films we can take our kids to see, or that are based on wildly popular books that revolve around wizards and vampires, or, occasionally, that force us to engage our intellect "Inception"-style. Also, 3-D is nice.

In other words, we don't need our movies to have big movie stars. But when they do, we're much happier when those stars are clearly working and telling us a story that means something to them. If we just want to see a Depp or Jolie relaxing in Italy, we've already got big, beautiful paparazzi pictures on the Internet for that.

By Jen Chaney  | December 9, 2010; 10:20 AM ET
Categories:  Brangelina, Celebrities, Movies  | Tags:  Angelina Jolie, Johnny Depp  
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"...or, occasionally, that force us to engage our intellect "Inception"-style."

Requiring a MAJOR suspension of disbelief is not the same as forcing to engage intellect. Four years-olds do the former with Santa Claus.

Posted by: stella117 | December 9, 2010 11:10 AM | Report abuse

Perhaps this movie is doomed because the theme is so trite. Angelina-Jolie-seduces-[insert name here] ... YAWNNNN ...

Posted by: Californian11 | December 9, 2010 1:23 PM | Report abuse

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