Dick Tracy (1990)
A good, fun adaptation
Based on the cult classic comic strip of the same name by Chester Gould, "Dick Tracy" brings the unusual world of one of the greatest fictional police detectives to life.
"Tracy" (Warren Beatty) is the best detective on the force. He is well-respected, and the prime target of the city's (unusual looking) criminal element.
One of the criminal element is "Alphonse 'Big Boy' Caprice" (Al Pacino), who wants to takeover the criminal underworld and control it with an iron fist. He has his hand in the law by having at least one high ranking official (Dick Van Dyke) in his pocket. His plan goes into motion when he has "Lips Manlis'" henchmen killed in St. Valentine's Day Massacre fashion, but it is witnessed by a street urchin who goes by the name of "The Kid" (Charlie Karsmo) who has no parents.
Of course, "Tracy" is put on the case of the massacre and comes across not only "Kid", but the seductive, sultry singer "Breathless Mahoney" (Madonna), who works at "Caprice's" night club. "Mahoney" holds key testimony, but refuses to testify unless "Tracy" admits an attraction to her despite him being seriously involved with "Tess Trueheart" (Glenne Headley)
As he hunts down "Caprice" and his henchmen, "Tracy" learns that a person with no face known as "The Blank" also wants "Caprice". However, it appears that "Blank" and "Tracy" are on the same side as whoever this mysterious figure is comes to "Tracy's" more than once. Both times saving the detective's life.
"The Blank" is out to destroy "Caprice" and his empire and tries to get "Tracy" off "Caprice's" trail by framing him for murdering "District Attorney Fletcher" (Van Dyke). "The Blank" then tries to frame "Caprice" for kidnapping, a federal offense, by planting a tied-up and blindfolded "Trueheart" in a room in the upstairs area of "Caprice's" club.
Now, not only does the yellow jacket-wearing detective have to try to clear his name, but he has to bring in "Caprice", his henchmen and the mysterious "Blank".
This is just a fun movie with a somewhat weak script that the cast, the majority of which is no lower than the A- List, somehow makes it work even better than it is with their over the top, memorable performances.
The look of this film is spectacular. Obviously inspired by film noir with its spectacular use of shadows and camera angles, with the blend of vibrant colors. This is one reason that I would say you should check it out.
Another thing that you can't help but notice is the spectacular make-up. Even though it is quite obvious that many of the cast are wearing prosthetics, it is blended into their own features, including skin tone, expertly.
Despite a fair script filled with character development problems by screenwriters Jim Cash and Jack Epps, Jr., the cast, most of which are headliners in their own right, are amazing in their roles. Pacino all but steals every scene he is in, Beatty, who also acts as director and producer, is strong as Tracy, but doesn't wear make-up to look like his character like others in this film. Dustin Hoffman, who looks a lot like the late Richard Mulligan in his make-up if you ask me, does a highly comedic performance as the stool-pigeon, "Mumbles," a character which only "Tracy" can understand.
In my opinion, Madonna has the weakest performance, but that could only be because of who else is in the cast as she was in her second major role after becoming a major force in the music industry. At times, she seemed a little stiff in her on-screen performance. Sometimes, like when she is singing on stage, it was necessary for her to just stand there and "Vogue" (which appears on her album that was inspired by this film by the way) due to back in the 1930s, which this film takes place, singers did not have the elaborate choreography Madonna's shows are known for. Another reason she may have been "Vogueing" is for the film noir style of many shots.
One performance that is real good is that of Karsmo, who works well with Beatty. In fact, I believe his teaming with Beatty was a lot stronger than Beatty and Madonna. He brought "The Kid" to life and makes you believe that he is a street-wise youngster living on the street.
One thing that this movie has a problem with is character development. If you ask me the recurring villains in the comic strip who appear in this film are only introduced, may have a few lines, and helps advance the plot. "Trueheart", and her relationship with "Tracy" is only touched upon and is used as a plot device in the build-up to the film's climax.
The only special effects that stand out are make-up effects. One good explosion as well, but nothing much else.
Much of the soundtrack, much of which have Madonna on lead vocals (and one song she performs is played multiple times in the movie), is done in the 1930's style. Those who would remember that type of music may enjoy this soundtrack more than those who are younger and expect the music Madonna is known for.
Despite the minor flaws, this is just a fun movie to catch on television or even be your third pick if your first pick is unavailable.