Angelina Jolie and Johnny Depp star in the new film 'The Tourist'

( PG-13 ) ( Monitor Movie Guide )

Angelina Jolie's and Johnny Depp's star power can't save 'The Tourist' from losing its way in this bland mystery drama.

Sony Pictures/Columbia Pictures/AP
Johnny Depp (l.) and Angelina Jolie are shown in a scene from the new film 'The Tourist.'

To see Johnny Depp and Angelina Jolie in “The Tourist” is like watching a chemistry experiment gone horribly wrong. You would think that these two stellar sexpots would set off royal fireworks – not to mention that both of them can, when the spirit moves them, really act.

No such spirit is in the wind here. This is the first Hollywood job by the German director Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck, who directed the Oscar-winning espionage drama “The Lives of Others.” About the only thing “The Tourist” has in common with that film is a fetishistic fascination with surveillance techniques.

Jolie, who these days is looking more and more like a reanimated mannequin from a Saks window display, plays Elise, a British woman of mystery who is being tailed by Interpol and Scotland Yard (but not, refreshingly, by the paparazzi). She meets up for the first time on a train to Venice with Frank, a vacationing community college math teacher from Wisconsin. Perhaps Depp, looking puffy and cushiony, overdoes the versimilitude of his characterization: He’s about as exciting as a community college math teacher from Wisconsin.

Elise is attached to a mysterious entity, an ex-inamorata named Alexander Pearce, who is being sought by both the British police and the mob for absconding with bales of stolen mob money. The gimmick here is that Frank, whom Elise cozies up to in her androidlike way, keeps getting mistaken for Alexander, whom we never see.

All this nonsense is essentially window-dressing for the two movie-star mannequins. I have no objection whatever to star vehicles designed solely to show off the luminescence of their luminaries – “Charade” and “To Catch a Thief” are two of the most enjoyable movies ever made.

But star power, even at this pay grade, must be continually validated. Depp has long since proved himself one of the most bizarrely inventive movie actors since Brando, so perhaps he’s entitled to the occasional snooze (although perhaps not on our dime). But Jolie, in movie after movie, has transformed herself into a not-so-special-effect. Her action-toy blankness worked in “Salt” because her character was all armature. In “The Tourist,” she’s supposed to be playing a woman in love.

From the looks of it, the only thing she seems to be in love with is her lip gloss. Grade: D+ (Rated PG-13 for violence and brief strong language.)


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