16 June 2008

Film: "Dick Tracy"

Dick Tracy
Directed by Warren Beatty
Screenplay by Jim Cash & Jack Epps, Jr.

Based upon characters created by Chester Gould
Starring: Warren Beatty, Al Pacino, Madonna
Theatrical Release Date: 15 June 1990
Screening Date: 15 June 2008

MPAA Rating: PG
Cinescope Personality Types: Courageous Detective, Passionate Maverick

Firstly, thanks to Baxter Avenue Theaters for screening Dick Tracy as part of their "Revenge of the Return of the Summer 'Splodin' Series" last night. Kudos also to Beau Kaelin for bathing the lobby in vintage Tracy materials from lobby cards to masks, from stand-up displays to posters.  Walking through the front door was like stepping back in time eighteen years, and it couldn't have been any cooler. Seeing the film on a big screen for the first time was especially rewarding, because I finally got to read the billboard signs, and really appreciated the cinematography. I was already in love with the production design, the sets, the costumes and the music.

Dick Tracy also featured something no other movie I've seen in a theater this year offered: a rewarding ending. Today, of course, the film would be done with a heavy reliance on CGI and it would not have been nearly as impressive. Like The Wizard of Oz, Dick Tracy is rewarding in part because it is clearly a production that required a lot of hard work from creative people to produce it. In an era where CGI has lessened the demands on filmmakers, this kind of movie-going experience is truly special.

The nice thing about Dick Tracy is that it has a clear storyline involving well over twenty characters, and even though secondary and lesser characters may not be particularly well developed, the principal characters are given ample storytime. Dick Tracy is committed to bringing down Big Boy Caprice; Tess Trueheart is committed to domesticating Tracy; The Kid is committed to not going back to the orphanage; Big Boy is committed to running a city-wide crime syndicate; Breathless Mahoney is committed to turning Tracy's dedication to herself. Each spends the duration of the film pursuing those goals, and each succeeds (at least at one point or another in the film). Ultimately, of course, Tracy gets his man, as does Tess.

Coupled with the overwhelming production values of the film, the plot's simplicity becomes charming; a nice throwback to earlier times. The film harkened back to 1938 Chicago (though never identified as such; paystubs are dated November 24, 1938 and the climax occurs on New Year's Eve; the name Chicago is absent entirely); the screening took us back to 1990. As an added treat, the original Roger Rabbit short, Rollercoaster Rabbit played before the feature!

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