Ouch! The landing is all the rougher when high expectations are shattered. While I was waiting for “The Tourist” to show at a Cineplex near me, the more jaded of my film cohorts warned me that I might be disappointed. But could director Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck disappoint, him of the superb “Lives of Others”? Alack, he has. “The Tourist” aspires to light larkhood along the lines of the old James Bond or Flint movies or “Charade” or “To Catch a Thief”—the German-born wonderboy knows his classics—but everything falls flat humorwise and fails miserably logic-wise. Johnny Depp recycles his Jack Sparrow makeup in a totally wooden performance and Angelina Jolie, striving for queenly, barely manages smirking. As for chemistry between the two, forget it. Even the story leaves us hungry for the charming capers of yore. Glamorous Elise Clifton-Ward (Jolie) is under surveillance from both French and British secret services as their only lead to her boyfriend Alexander Pierce, wanted for tax evasion (truly).
On the train that takes her to Venice on an assignment with said BF, acting on his instruction to find someone vaguely looking like him so as to throw the cops off his scent, she picks Wisconsin math teacher Frank Tupelo (Johnny Depp). Problems start from the moment they set foot in Venice as they are chased by assorted heavies and secret service agents. The plot, silly enough, affords the viewer not the slightest frisson (but a tour of Venetian splendor, lovingly photographed by John Seale) until the utterly predictable ending of the couple on a vaporetto taking them out to the open sea. Anyone is entitled to a mistake, even a director as gifted as we thought this one to be on the basis of his previous effort. But careful now, Florian, we are watching you. Another misstep and you’ll be in even worse trouble than the ridiculous characters in this bad, bad, movie.