When a movie is screened only 48 hours before release, you have to assume there's something terrible afoot and the studio is doing their best to keep the blogosphere from exploding with bad press.
However, in the case of "The Tourist," which was screened for critics Wednesday, it might be that Sony's delay worked against them, preparing people for the worst and inspiring the current drubbing the film is taking.
Is "The Tourist" predictable? Yes.
Is "The Tourist" occasionally implausible and slow? Yes.
Is "The Tourist" the meandering puddle of dreck that people are making it out to be? No.
In fact, it's far superior to Angelina Jolie's most recent outing, "Salt," an excruciating exercise that left audiences guffawing as the clunker careened through a ridiculous plot and terrible acting. To say "The Tourist" is a better movie might be slight praise, but it is still praise.
Let's start with the good stuff, shall we?
The movie, a remake of the so-so French film, "Anthony Zimmer," stars Depp as a newly single American math teacher who travels to Venice to recover from heartbreak. But when he meets a beautiful and mysterious English woman (Jolie, naturally) he finds himself caught up in a swirling game of cat and mouse.
From the moment Jolie appears on screen, you're struck by the thought that this woman would only be a movie star. She's too flawless and captivating to occupy any other space in the universe. But she plays the femme fatale with disconcerting distance and a seriously gamey English accent (when is she going to realize that adding a dialect to her action hero roles doesn't lend them any more gravitas or credence?), gliding through the frame in Jackie O sunglasses and chignons or impeccably tailored pencil skirts, recalling a Hitchcock heroine, a portrait of chilly perfection, while Depp is acting in a different movie entirely, gamely flinging himself from befuddled math teacher to unwitting hostage, never fully shaking what seems to be a watered down reincarnation of Captain Jack Sparrow.
It seems director Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck couldn't decide if he wanted to make a sexy thriller or a sassy romp and ends up with a film that's a bit of both. In the end, despite the venom critics are flinging its way, we found "The Tourist" to be an innocuous offering that exists in a no man's land between really good or really bad; a film that would be perfectly enjoyable to catch one mindless afternoon. But what fun is that for critics to gripe about?