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DICK TRACY (director: Warren Beatty; screenwriters: Jack EppsJr./Bo Goldman/Lorenzo Semple, Jr./Jim Cash/based on the comic strip by Chester Gould; cinematographer: Vittorio Storaro; editor: Richard Marks; music: Danny Elfman/Jeff Lass/Andy Paley/Stephen Sondheim; cast: Warren Beatty (Dick Tracy), Charlie Korsmo (Kid), Glenne Headly (Tess Trueheart), Madonna (Breathless Mahoney), Al Pacino (Big Boy Caprice), Dustin Hoffman (Mumbles), Charles Durning (Chief Brandon), William Forsythe (Flattop), James Caan (Spaldoni), Estelle Parsons (Mrs. Trueheart), Dick Van Dyke (D.A. Fletcher), Paul Sorvino (Lips Manlis), R. G. Armstrong (Pruneface), Seymour Cassel (Sam Catchem), Michael J. Pollard (Bug Bailey), Henry Silva (Influence), Lawrence Steven Meyers (Little Face), Mandy Patinkin (88 Keys), Chuck Hicks (The Brow), Neil Summers (The Rodent), Stig Eldred (Shoulders), Ed O’Ross (Itchy); Runtime: 102; MPAA Rating: PG; producers: Warren Beatty/Jon Landau/Art Linson/Floyd Mutrux/Barrie M. Osborne/Jim Van Wyck; Touchstone Pictures; 1990)

“Fails to be a compelling watch.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

A stylized big-budget live movie based on the popular newspaper comic-strip by Chester Gould. It looks great using the same seven colors employed in the comic strip, but has a rote two-dimensional story, fails to be a compelling watch and couldn’t be more of a bore. Warren Beatty(“Heaven Can Wait”/”Bulworth”/”Reds”) flatly directs this extravaganza set in the 1930s and plays the square-jawed Dick Tracy, who wears a yellow raincoat and fedora and on his wrist wears a two-way-radio. The only thing Tracy fears, we’re told, is a desk job and marriage.

Tracy’s long-time loyal girlfriend is the redhead Tess Trueheart (Glenne Headly), while a feisty orphan kid (Charlie Korsmo) tags along with his hero cop and hopes some day to be adopted by him.

Writers Jack EppsJr., Bo Goldman, Lorenzo Semple, Jr. and Jim Cash, besides handing in a limp script, give the cop an outbreak of violence in the big city and the cop has to round-up a host of grotesque goonish villains.

The numerous villains are outlandish, but have too little screen time to make much of an impression before disappearing from the screen. The list includes the likes of Flattop (William Forsythe), Little Face (Lawrence Steven Meyers), The Brow (Chuck Hicks), Pruneface (R. G. Armstrong), Mumbles (Dustin Hoffman), and Lips Manlis (Paul Sorvino). But the main crook, Big Boy Caprice (Al Pacino), has a big part and steals the pic, in fact he’s the only one in the film who keeps you awake. Big Boy goes on comical rants, misquotes Nietzsche, is heavily made-up as a hunchback (like in Richard III) and sports a Hitler mustache. Also having a key role in the movie is a torch singer named Breathless Mahoney (Madonna), who tries to seduce the straight-arrow Tracy and get him to go over to his dark side in trade for her testimony as a crime material witness.

The main plot revolves around if a compromised Tracy can rescue in time his kidnapped girlfriend Tess, held in a power plant, where she was snatched by unknown criminals who don’t bother to send a ransom note.


Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”