If you're looking for hard-hitting action, "The Tourist" may not be your cup of cappuccino. A romantic thriller set in Venice, it's as glossy as a travel brochure and fluffier than the pillow in a four-star hotel. Every object, including the faces of Angelina Jolie and Johnny Depp, seems too beautiful to damage.
That's a compliment. "The Tourist" returns to a foolproof formula Hollywood has lately forgotten: Glamorous people going to glamorous places and doing glamorous (and dangerous) things. It's not exactly "To Catch a Thief" (1963), but it's the closest you'll get in a modern multiplex.
The movie it most resembles (besides the one on which it's based, the 2005 French production "Anthony Zimmer") is Alfred Hitchcock's "North by Northwest," with Depp in the Cary Grant role of an average American bewitched by an attractive woman. Depp plays Frank Tupelo, a Wisconsin math teacher vacationing in Paris - that is, until he meets Elise Ward (Jolie), who, with lips and lashes, steers him to her Venice hotel. Only after the bullets start flying does Frank realize he's become an unwitting decoy for an internationally wanted criminal.
The subsequent cat-and-mousing feels fresh, precisely because it's so old-fashioned. The action scenes are modest - no backward motorcycle chases, no hidden parachutes - and therefore convincing. What's more, director Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck ("The Lives of Others") allows time for conversation and humor. (Listen closely for Depp's subtly mangled Italian.)
Paul Bettany is fine as an obsessed Scotland Yarder and Steven Berkoff effectively plays his umpteenth Old World villain, but, of course, it's Jolie and Depp, together for the first time, who are selling the tickets. They're even more breathtaking than the scenery - and that's another compliment.
"And I've never played a lady really before - I've played a version of a girl. I found it a real big challenge to play somebody that is extremely European, elegant and very pink with little bows and things that were very foreign to me," the actress said.
"We just got put together in the film and we both like each other's movies but had never met," said Jolie. "And we met and we talked about kids for the first hour and France for the second and had a good laugh. We really enjoyed working with each other in the film and I hope that comes across."
Jolie has high hopes for "The Tourist," which opens Friday.
"I hope it's one of those movies that has a little bit of everything, that doesn't take itself so seriously, has a good time, and has a bit of romance and a bit of mystery, and a lot of fun," she said.