Dick Tracy 1990
Before I get into some more classicly bad and/or cheesy superhero movies, I picked this movie for our new podcast. I won our first game and next Tuesday will be the second episode of the As You Watch Podcast. You can be involved too. If you want to watch Dick Tracy and review it on your site, I will gladly link to your reviews so we can all discuss it together. Anyway, Dick Tracy came out on the heels of Tim Burton’s Batman movie and tried to cash in on that first wave of Superhero movies, but it was fairly short lived as nothing besides Batman and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles seemed to have any pull with audiences at the time. Dick Tracy was inspired by a classic comic strip that dates back to the 30’s. Warren Beatty pulled a lot of his influence to make this pet project, initially getting it greenlit under a moderate budget before ballooning it to almost double before he was done. The results were fairly impressive for the time, with all the bright colors and unique characters that looked like they were almost taken directly off the comic book page. But while there are still a lot of great things about the movie, it just doesn’t quite hold up as well anymore, at least in my opinion.
I have to say that the look of this movie is both the best thing about it and the worst thing about it. This really pulled the look of the comic books right off the page years before Sin City made it a cool thing to do. This looked like the comic book version of the 1920’s. The colors pop off the screen, and practically all of the unique looking villains look just like their drawn counterparts. Ok, well technically I’m making an assumption about that last part as I’ve never actually paid much attention to a single Dick Tracy comic. Unfortunately, looking at them today with little background information and many of the characters just look plain grotesque. Like Pruneface, Snake Eyes (I think that’s one of them), Big Boy, Flattop, and many others. But even some of the more minor characters that you might not expect to really need the added prosthetics, like Mumbles or Bugs. The make up at the time looked great, but I think if it were to be done again today, it could have been something that looked much more realistic and yet still true to the comic books.
Aside from the makeup, the cast for this movie was pretty stellar. From Warren Beatty himself, to Dick Van Dyke, Al Pacino, Dustin Hoffman, and many others. I even enjoyed Madonna’s performance as Breathless Mahoney in this movie, bringing her off screen chemistry with real life beau, Beatty, onto the screen. She wasn’t given a whole lot to stretch, but this was also before her noteworthy turn in a League of Their Own. I was rather surprised at some of the risque outfits she wore considering this was merely rated PG. The other role I quite enjoyed seeing was Dustin Hoffman as Mumbles, especially his final line in the movie, which I thought was even funnier because my wife still didn’t understand what he was saying. Warren Beatty as Dick Tracy was also a good fit for the hard boiled detective role, bringing out the 20’s style of the character. It was also interesting seeing Al Pacino go so over the top, almost hinting at the caricature he would eventually become in many more recent comedies that he’s been in.
The plot of the movie was rather interesting to me, filled with double crosses, people working both sides, and you’re never sure what anyone’s final plans really are. The three main honchos are Dick Tracy, Big Boy Caprice, and the Blank. Although I don’t think they ever call the Blank by any name, so I was taken to calling him No Face. In next week’s As You Watch podcast, which we’ve just recently recorded, you can hear an interesting parallel to a more recent movie, but you’ll just have to listen to find out which one. During several points in the movie, one of the three has the leg up on the other two, and it keeps things turning all the way to the end.
One of the things that might throw some people off is the inclusion of a kid to the mix, which is often reserved for sitcoms who have “jumped the shark”. I honestly thought the kid was a decent addition to the movie without being too much of an annoyance, and holds his own for the most part. He was never used for the overly schmaltzy card, though some could say that his comic relief was a little tedious. I think one of the weak points in this movie was actually Tess, Tracy’s long time girlfriend. There’s one of the biggest stereotypical scenes where she walks in right as Tracy is kissing Mahoney, I’m just glad that they did at least give it some originality in the fact that she never actually confronts him about it. She merely keeps it to herself and leaves him for unnamed reasons. She really was just never given much to do in this film. The one scene that I did like between her and Tracy was both of the times where he tried to propose to her. It was just the right amount of being flustered from the guy who never gets shaken by anything else he comes up against. I must admit that I enjoyed this movie less than I had predicted I would, but it’s still a pretty fun flick if you know what you’re getting into. And be sure to come back to hear more about it from me, as well as my castmates in the As You Watch podcast next week right here. Until next time, this has been Bubbawheat for Flights, Tights, and Movie Nights.