Who's In It: Johnny Depp, Angelina Jolie, Paul Bettany, Timothy Dalton
The Basics: Depp is a vacationing math teacher from the Midwest (quit laughing) who finds himself drawn into a web of international intrigue when Jolie, as a Mysterious Lady on a Train, whisks him into her dangerous world of people chasing them everywhere--it's about a large sum of missing money, a very bad guy and his Russian goon squad, sneering Scotland Yard detectives and some fake identities, the way these things always are--and, along the ride, they also find themselves possibly falling in love. Then there's a twist that I won't give away, but you'll figure it out if you're paying even half as much attention to the movie as you are to that box of Sour Patch Kids you're eating.
What's The Deal: Cheeky, sensual, exotic spy thrillers need to spin several plates at once to succeed. They need to star beautiful people who also have the kind of on-screen chemistry that make you believe they're actually doing it in their trailers between shots. They need to make stunning use of their beautiful Euro locations. They need to be witty--these are people who are brilliant at playing cat-and-mouse, after all, aren't they? And they need to be exciting, with twists you don't see coming and a credible amount of suspense. These are the minimum requirements for this genre. And come the end of this month, after Yogi Bear hits theaters, I think if you put this movie head-to-head with that one in a battle over which one displays more of those qualities, the cartoon animals are going to take the prize.
Star Power Outage: You can't really blame Angelina Jolie for her looks or the way she magnetizes your eyeballs when she's on screen. She's got that striking angled face and giant lips and va-va-voom walk, a combination that shouts I WILL DEVOUR YOU! LOOK AT ME WHEN I'M TALKING TO YOU! And it's happening at all times, as though she's incapable of turning it off. So putting her up on screen with just anybody is a big mistake. They disappear next to her. So whose big idea was it to take Johnny Depp--a guy who can hold the camera just as well as she can as long as he's got something big to do with it--and turn him into a shuffling everyman who walks around shrugging his shoulders and pretending to be a nobody schoolteacher? At what point do these two start shooting lasers from their nostrils and exploding buildings with transformer arms that turn to rocket launchers? Or at least make out convincingly? Because that's really what you want from them, and it's exactly what you don't get. Blame the script, the director (Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck, Oscar winner for The Lives of Others), the producers and maybe even movie star demands for this or that, but something has gone really, really wrong here.
Sorry, Bad Movie Fans, This One's Not For You, Either: Like Burlesque, it's not howlingly stupid or bad enough to be the kind of awesome fun you have with friends when you're all in the mood to make each other laugh by conducting your own Mystery Science Theater party. It's just something to fall asleep to on late-night cable.