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Revisiting 1990: Dick Tracy

September 13, 2010

Considered For: Guilty Pleasure

“The enemy of my enemy is my enemy.”

Plot: Popular detective Dick Tracy (Warren Beatty) tries to put a stop to a mob headed by Big Boy Caprice (Al Pacino) while maintaining a healthy relationship with girlfriend Tess Trueheart (Glenne Headley). Matters are complicated when he becomes a father figure for an orphaned boy and faces the seduction of a sultry singer named Breathless Mahoney (Madonna).

Dick Tracy was actually a pretty fun film. It reminded me a lot of Tim Burton’s Batman, released a year prior. The art direction definitely has a comic book feel to it and the make up of the villains is certainly campy. However, when comparing the two films, it’s not difficult to realize which one is superior. Batman has a much better story and looks waaaaaaaaaaay cooler, despite a lesser budget. I never read any Dick Tracy comics, so I don’t know anything about the mythology, but Warren Beatty couldn’t have been the best actor for this role. Sure, he directed the film, but his portrayal of Dick Tracy didn’t strike me as very suave or heroic… and maybe he’s not supposed to be. Al Pacino stole the show in this movie as Big Boy Caprice. It’s hard to believe he gave a performance as animated as this in the same calender year that he was so boring in The Godfather: Part III. It doesn’t even seem like the same person, which I guess is a testament to his range as an actor. He deserved his Oscar nomination for the role. Madonna channels her inner Marilyn Monroe as Breathless Mahoney, giving a sexy performance that combined solid acting with dainty singing. She is definitely a uniquely talented woman. The story here isn’t particularly interesting and the main conflict essentially boils down to Tracy deciding what’s more important to him: his career or his woman? Dick Tracy could easily have been a complete failure, but Pacino, Madonna, and interesting sets make it a movie worth remembering.

Grade: B
Viewings: 2
Replay Value: There’s a twist at the end that might make a second viewing worthwhile… or maybe not.
Sequel Potential: It grossed $100 million at a time when that was considered a blockbuster, but never got a sequel… the potential is there though.
Oscars?: Nominated for seven Oscars with wins for Best Make-Up, Best Art Direction, and Best Original Song. Pacino got a Supporting Actor nom.
Nudity?: You’d think not, considering the movie is rated PG, but you can clearly see Madonna’s nipples in one scene.

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