Warren Beatty directs himself, Al Pacino and Charlie Korsmo in this comic book adaptation about the prohibition era detective who takes on all the grotesque gangsters of his matte background city.
The summer after Warner Bros’ Batman rewrote the blockbuster map, Walt Disney’s Dick Tracy tried to pull the same trick off again with weaker results. Merchandising and marketing was on point in 1990. The tri colour Dick Tracy logo was everywhere and on everything. I had a Dick Tracy official watch, I remember that watch more than the movie. This is a hot mess upon a cautious revisit. It looks eye popping but that’s about all you can say. Beatty’s hero feels a little lost in an oversized but elegant yellow Burberry coat and an inappropriate schmuck’s shrug. I’m sure when Chester Gould created his primary coloured Elliot Ness in the 1930s he never imagined him played with the gormless, spineless tone of the airhead from Shampoo.
A fantastic cast of villains are slathered in prosthetics. I have no real issue with this, it is one of the movie’s long lasting selling points, but there’s so many freaks that you lose track of who is who. Clearly the thinking was if Jack Nicolson could deliver the biggest opening ever as a flamboyant yet deformed villain then imagine what we money we could make with Al Pacino and Dustin Hoffman and James Caan and William Forsythe and a dozen more names drowned in pink rubber… There are montages instead of action and moping instead of sleuthing.
Glenne Headley and Madonna are the best things in it as the good girl and bad girl respectively. Though Madge’s revealing costumes make a mockery of the PG certificate. Not that I’m complaining. I just get the feeling once this was storyboarded and cast and Stephen Sondheim agreed to provide a few tunes, Beatty got bored or realised he was above all this. Dick Tracy makes for a very stilted adventure romp, the IMDB trivia proving far more fun than sitting through its unconvincing lurches at being an entertainment.
Perfect Double Bill: Darkman (1990)
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