It was somewhat amusing that some critics panned "The Tourist" so viciously. The Johnny Depp-Angelina Jolie vehicle is pretty much like whipped cream - well, maybe some whipped-creamlike substance out of a can. But did anyone really have any high expectations?
One of the reasons the film was made - and in a fairly short time, considering Hollywood standards - was so Jolie could hang out in Paris and Venice, the settings of the film from Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck, who had directed the gritty Oscar-winning best foreign film "The Lives of Others."
There is a place for frothy, classy entertainments like Alfred Hitchcock's "To Catch a Thief" (1955), which had Cary Grant and Grace Kelly fashionably tooling around Monaco.
"Thief" seems the model for "The Tourist," but the latter doesn't have the panache of the master's film. Still, "The Tourist" is not badly done. It's mostly uninspired, but it has some pleasant moments.
The film opens with the camera following Jolie's Elise Ward, a woman of mystery who is under heavy surveillance by authorities. There are worse things to do than watch the actress in heels and dressed in high Paris fashion wander on the screen for a while. In order to throw off the law enforcement officers tailing her, while on a train Elise wows a vacationing mild-mannered Wisconsin math teacher, Frank Tupelo (Depp), easily convincing him to accompany her to Venice.
The lawmen then believe Frank is someone else they are looking for. Why and what they are doing this for is almost beside the point. What we want to see is the superstars - who have never been in a film together - play cat and mouse romantically while racing around the picturesque Italian city of canals and ducking a few bullets.
We can wonder what the pair might be like in a better film, but Jolie looks great and Depp displays the quirkiness that has made him so popular. There are a number of solid British actors to round out the cast - Paul Bettany, Timothy Dalton, Steven Berkoff and Rufus Sewell - and loads of beautiful scenery and a few decent action scenes thrown in for good measure. OK, so who doesn't occasionally like a taste of whipped cream out of a can? We just don't like to admit it.
'Know' strikes out
Speaking of expectations - people had them for "How Do You Know," a romantic comedy from James L. Brooks, who has made some good, even great ones, such as "Broadcast News" and "As Good As It Gets."
"Know" doesn't seem to know where it's going, and neither does its heroine, played by Reese Witherspoon. The Oscar winner's Lisa is a 30-ish softball player who gets cut from the national team, leaving her adrift after spending so many years in pursuit of her athletic dream.
It isn't long, though, before two suitors help to fill and complicate her life. Matty (Owen Wilson) is a pro baseball pitcher with a multimillion-dollar contract, and George (Paul Rudd) is an underachieving businessman who works for his father (Jack Nicholson).
Whom to choose? Which way to go? "How Do You Know" delivers some laughs, even some real "moments," but the film seems underwritten, giving the leads few places to shine. If Brooks hadn't made such wonderful films in the past, then maybe "Know" wouldn't seem like such a swing and a miss.
Keep in mind
"Stand By Me: 25th Anniversary Edition" on Blu-ray has a new picture-in-picture commentary retrospective with director Rob Reiner and actors Wil Wheaton and Corey Feldman. Over the years this coming-of-age film has turned into sort of a touchstone for many.
Based on a Stephen King short story, it's a nostalgia piece about four youths who see their boyhood ending. Taking place over a Labor Day weekend before the start of their first year in high school, they set out in search of a dead body that one of the boys heard about. Jerry O'Connell and the late River Phoenix played the other two boys, while Kiefer Sutherland was memorable as an older bully. Richard Dreyfuss, who plays one of the youths as a grown-up, narrates the film.