A bit too mellow yellow.
Dick Tracy is directed by Warren Beatty and written by Jim Cash and Jack Epps Jr. Based on Chester Gould’s comic strip creation of the same name, it stars Beatty, Al Pacino, Madonna, Glenne Headly, Dustin Hoffman, Charlie Korsmo, Charles Durning and William Forsythe. Music is by Danny Elfman, with songs by Stephen Sondheim, and cinematography is by Vittorio Storaro.
Punk Rock band X-Ray Spex once sang about The Day The World Turned Day-Glo, Warren Beatty’s Dick Tracy was exactly that. The live action cartoon is a feast for the eyes, as the city backdrop for this cops and gangsters tale is a fountain of bright, lurid primary colours. The characters are drawn brilliantly, where the good guys are very much human, but the bad guys are a bunch of grotesques, like a mutant gathering under one coalition banner. All star casting, striking costuming, amazing effects work, quality songs and a brisk musical score (Elfman reworks his score for Batman from the previous year), Dick Tracy as a production is grade “A” stuff. It also did very well at the box office, where although it didn’t reach Disney’s expectation levels financially, it coined to the tune of over $100 million in profit Worldwide. Not bad for a film some still think was a flop!
It’s a film that feels a lot better watching it now than it did back on release, to be able to view it as a smart technical accomplishment for the time it was made. The cast factor also makes it something of a fascinating experience, watching legends like Pacino and Hoffman absolutely buy into the cartoon excess on show. However, the old problem with it just will never go away. Yes the plot is very simple, but that’s easy to accept these days, it was after all a gangster movie made for all the family, it’s that Beatty’s portrayal of Tracy is too under played. He’s a good guy, we know that, we are on his side, but it’s a flat characterisation, he’s never pushed to be anything other than a cool dude. This of course lets the monstrous villains take the film by the scruff of the neck, as most villains tend to anyway, but for a film carrying his name, you expect a bit more from Dick Tracy the man.
Still, Dick Tracy is a fun movie experience, not all it can be, but enjoyable regardless. 7/10
I'm heartily disappointed that this didn't produce sequels. If any fine actor/director of the period was perfect for the role of Dick Tracy, it was Beatty. He does very good work here. It's as if he took Tim Burton's template for 'Batman' and simply adjusted it for his comic-book picture. Madonna isn't bad here either, simply because she's pretending to be Marilyn Monroe, something she'd been wanting to do all of her career to that point. And the rogues gallery here is perhaps second in quality only to the aforementioned DC Caped Crusader. In retrospect, that perhaps was the picture's weakest link--no true criminal really dominated proceedings and stuck in one's mind. Had they tried the time-tested hookup of two baddies to get in Dick's hair just enough to rile him, it may have worked better. Still one of the most enjoyable, and underrated, comic-book pictures of the past three decades.