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Originally published December 9, 2010 at 10:10 AM | Page modified December 9, 2010 at 11:06 AM

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Movie review

'The Tourist': Pretty, but otherwise not worth a visit

A review of "The Tourist," a somewhat confused caper starring the ravishing Angelina Jolie, Johnny Depp, the city of Venice and fabulous clothing designed by Washington state native Colleen Atwood.

Seattle Times movie critic

Movie review2 stars

'The Tourist,' with Johnny Depp, Angelina Jolie, Paul Bettany, Timothy Dalton, Steven Berkoff, Rufus Sewell. Directed by Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck, from a screenplay by von Donnersmarck, Christopher McQuarrie and Julian Fellowes. 104 minutes. Rated PG-13 for violence and brief strong language. Several theaters.

If looks could kill, "The Tourist" would leave corpses in the multiplex aisles. This thriller, directed by Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck ("The Lives of Others," a movie bearing no resemblance whatsoever to this one), wallows in the beauty of Angelina Jolie's frosty smiles, Johnny Depp's winsome confusion, and outfits so chic they barely need actors wearing them — these dresses surely could speak for themselves. Add the glorious rooftops and canals of Venice, plus a taste of Paris and a mysterious-lady-met-on-the-train bit in the opening act, and we're ready to settle in for a deliciously stylish Hitchcockian caper.

Alas, easier said than done. Written by three people who should know better — von Donnersmarck, Christopher McQuarrie ("The Usual Suspects") and Julian Fellowes ("Gosford Park") — the movie follows the trail of the enigmatic Elise (Jolie) and the befuddled Frank (Depp), a math teacher from Wisconsin whom she draws into her web on a train to Venice, in a very "North by Northwest-y" way. She brings him to her hotel suite (again, this room's so gorgeous I hope it has an agent), kisses him, confuses him. Cue the local police, an array of wealthy-looking men in suits, a frequently infuriated Scotland Yard investigator (Paul Bettany) bent on tracking down Elise's gangster lover, some high-speed boat chases, and an elaborate scene at a ball, where Depp and Jolie get caught in a dance number that seems torn from an unrelated old-school musical.

Connecting all of this is a thin story, dependent on a disappointing final twist, and a surprising lack of chemistry between the two glamorous stars. Jolie, who's perfectly capable of giving a subtle and moving performance (see "Changeling"), here is all swaying hips, perfect posture and unvarying expressions of cooler-than-Seattle-spring poise. We never get inside Elise's head, and while Depp's quite charming (particularly when scaling the roofs of Venice in his PJs), his character doesn't quite add up either. Turns out that "The Tourist" is like a beautifully decorated shop window — with no shop behind it.

Moira Macdonald: 206-464-2725 or mmacdonald@seattletimes.com

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