The Accidental Tourist *1/2
One Liner Review:
Not a very good movie, this one is a romantic drama with some unique ideas at the start, but not much going on for the rest of the way through.
The Accidental Tourist is a movie with two interesting ideas, both at the start of the film, and then a slow dud of a movie for pretty much the entirety after that. This is a movie that reunites the trio of William Hurt, Kathleen Turner, and director Lawrence Kasdan, (the same three who made the noir class Body Heat,) and in many ways it feels like these three committed to this project just to work together again. But what starts out as a movie with a little bit of potential is quickly squashes among the dullness and boredom that make this movie up.
The first of the two good ideas that we get at the start of the film is the whole idea of what is the “Accidental Tourist.” It’s a businessman who is flying away from home on a business trip, and really doesn’t want to be there. He doesn’t want to be a tourist, (and at one point the publisher offers up the title, “The Reluctant Tourist,” which would have been more accurate, but less catchy.) This is a person who wants to get back home as fast as possible, and while he’s overseas, (or wherever his trip takes him,) he wants to know how to make things feel like home in every way.
Our protagonist here, Macon (William Hurt,) writes books for these people. He travels to different countries to do research in order to offer up advice in his books. At one point we see him testing out restaurants and at another he’s testing out how well a hotel room toilets flush works (with the hotel manager standing right next to him, looking over Macon’s shoulder at his notepad.) And so Macon writes and the idea is that he wants a very simple life with no surprises in it, and that’s what he believes his readers want to.
And the reason why he hates surprises is actually the second interesting plot point that we get at the start of the film. Macon’s son was murdered. He was just a boy, and was caught at the wrong place at the wrong time, in a convenience store when it was being held up. And the boy was shot by the robbers. Another movie would begin with this, and make the movie about finding the murderers and getting revenge. This movie uses the boy’s death simply as a plot point to develop character. It’s a pretty hard topic to handle, especially at the start of the film, and it basically throws all hopes of this being a romantic comedy away, (it reminds me of the start of Rebel Without A Cause, when we learned that Plato shot and killed puppies, and we are just supposed to look the other way on that and forgive him and move on.)
But this is not a romantic comedy, despite the trailer for the film pretty much insisting that it is. That trailer, which completely lies to the audience and presents a very different film, doesn’t even mention or give a hint about the dead son, despite it being the single action that forces everything which happens afterwards. And the first one of these things that happens is that Macon’s wife, Sarah, (Kathleen Turner,) wants to divorce her husband. There were problems in the marriage that they looked past when they had a son, but just can’t look past anymore, and she wants out.
Once Sarah leaves, Macon lives in the house by himself, with only his dog to keep him company. We hear him drone on with boring advice from his book, such as “take only one book with you to read, since you will not have as much free time as you anticipate.” Is this really necessary advice? Sounds like the kind of thing that people can figure out for themselves. And it’s while Macon is spending his days in a lifeless stupor around the house, that his dog jumps at him, knocking him down the stairs. Macon breaks his foot and moves in with his siblings, so they can help take care of him.
Regarding the siblings, it’s one of those movie situations that is unique and quirky and not very realistic at all. All three siblings live together. Macon joining them makes it four. That’s him, his two brothers, and his sister. And only one of them gets any personality. That would be Macon’s sister, who falls in love with his boss and gets married to him. But aside from moving in with the siblings, the other interesting thing that comes from the dog jumping at him, is that Macon brings his dog to a trainer, and hits it off with her. This is Muriel (Geena Davis,) playing the young, energetic, fun character. Only she’s not really any of those things at all.
Macon and Muriel start spending time together, as the movie reaches the halfway point or so, and it becomes apparent that there’s no real conflict in the movie. The biggest problem is that this guy, Macon, is sad. Even when he tells Muriel that he can’t get close to her and allow himself to accept her into his life, she shrugs it off and simply pulls him into her house. Here he is, being truthful about what happened to his son, and telling her to please respect his wishes and stop asking him to have dinner, and her response is to take him inside and have sex with him. Sure, it’s done in a silent, artistic way, to show that she is kind of tending to his wounds, but how about respecting what he says a little bit? How about letting the conflict become a challenge, and not just a, “I don’t care, let me pull you inside anyway,” kind of situation?
There’s still no conflict here. And then Macon sees Sarah at a wedding and the two of them get back together, trying to give their marriage another shot. Why? Because it’s a movie cliche and this movie is following the cliches and usual formula to a T. Movie opens and character split up. Protagonist meets a fun love interest and everything is going great. Then they separate and break up towards the end, for one last conflict, before reuniting for the conclusion. It’s beyond predictable. Here, it’s just dopey.
And things don’t get any better when the movie takes the characters to Paris for the final act. Macon boards a plane, now back with his wife, who is staying behind in the states. But guess who board behind him? Muriel. She’s coming to Paris too, following him there, and even staying at the same hotel. This isn’t persistence, it’s stalking. And when Sarah shows up in Paris too, it’s simply to give Macon a reason to break up with her and get back with Muriel, (from the stories perspective.) Everything is so paint by the numbers here that the side plot about the sister marrying Macon’s boss, but not wanting to leave her brothers in the house alone, becomes more interesting than the main plot. At least with that story there is an interesting conflict and solution. With the main story here, about Macon and the two women in his life, we get neither one.