Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Video review: "The Tourist"

It seems like most of my video columns lately have spotlighted movies I felt got a raw deal: "127 Hours," "Morning Glory." Well, I'll continue the roll: "The Tourist," flayed by critics (20 percent on the Tomatometer) and largely ignored by audiences -- at least American ones; it cleaned up overseas -- is a thoroughly enjoyable bit of popcorn moviemaking.

This spy thriller starring Angelina Jolie, Johnny Depp and the city of Venice is a skillfully-made bit of weightless piffle. No, it will not become a fixture in the annals of cinema. It's a fancy sundae, a concoction of sweet thrills and empty calories. We shouldn’t take too long admiring it, because it’ll melt if we do.

Just scoop it up, enjoy the sugary rush and smile.

Depp plays Frank Tupelo, a sad-sack math professor from Wisconsin riding the train to Venice for a lonely vacation. Onboard he meets an exotic, dangerous woman named Elise Clifton-Ward (Jolie), who brazenly flirts with him. It's soon revealed that she's a spy on the run, who's merely using Frank as a patsy.

The rest of the movie is one long bit of chase-chase, a classic Hitchcockian convoluted plot of double-crosses and MacGuffins. Something about Elise's long-lost lover duping a British mobster out of billions, with Paul Bettany starring as the unctuous spymaster hunting everyone. There's a glamorous formal ball, a boat chase or two -- it's Venice, how could there not be? -- and some rooftop hi jinks.

It may not make much sense, but the ride is brisk and fun.

Video extras are good no matter what format you choose.

The DVD version has a feature-length commentary track by director Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck, a reel of outtakes and goofs, an alternate title sequence done in animation, and two featurettes on staging the fancy ball scene and the film's take on Old Hollywood glamour.

The Blu-ray edition includes all these features, plus three more featurettes: "Action in Venice," "Canal Chats" and "Tourist Destination: Travel the Canals of Venice."

No digital copy of the film, though. Now that is a raw deal.

Movie: 3 stars out of four
Extras: 3 stars

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