When Johnny Depp debuted his Captain Jack Sparrow in 2003, he finally got his first blockbuster and won a legion of new fans. But before his swashbuckling, Depp was known for taking roles bizarre and unlike what many other actors would touch. Edward Scissorhands, Cry-Baby, and Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas were all classics long before Disney came calling. After becoming the superstar he seemed destined to become, he started to take roles more akin to his early career days.
Post Pirates, Johnny has done way more mainstream stuff than he used to. Before Pirates, his roles were almost all risky and quirky characters. After, he seemed to be capitalizing on his new cred. This won him the hearts of young girls everywhere, but their love is purely bandwagon. His fans, who claim to love all of his movies, are younger than first roles. Nightmare on Elm Street and 21 Jump Street are remakes to these kids, not the Wes Craven masterpiece and TV show that helped launch him into Tim Burton’s gothic hands.
It’s with this knowledge that I went into The Rum Diary earlier this week. A fan of his films long before Pirates, and one who scarcely tolerated On Stranger Tides, I was psyched. A story based on Hunter S. Thompson’s book, the film looked like a Latin flavored adventure similar to Thompson’s other movie adaptation Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. Which is one of the great mindtripsI discovered in high school.
Depp in Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas
If you looked at the reviews of The Rum Diary and the box office, you’d see this is the Depp I remember from the nineties. Despite Depp blaming Midwesterns (specifically Wichita, KS) a bunch of dummies for not seeing the movie, those who saw it would tell you the film doesn’t work. My girlfriend and I, longterm fans of Depp, went in hoping for something exciting. We left feeling cheated.
The Rum Diary stars Depp as Paul Kemp, a washed up alcoholic writer who just joined the San Juan Star in Puerto Rico. From there, the film follows Kemp drinking and barely doing his job and falling in love with the eternally stunning Amber Heard as the paper dies off.
Amber Heard and Johnny Depp in The Rum Diary
The film itself starts simply enough, and shows promise. But as the film unfolds, the characters and story fall apart. In earlier roles where Depp is quirky, we can fall back on his character for solace. Here, there is no such luck. His role, and everyone else’s for that matter, is one-dimensional and wasted. The plot becomes a weak connection between scenes. The love subplot has Heard appear flirty one minute, unavailable the next, and gone from the movie for significant portions, further straining the credibility of including such a character all together.
When the film began it’s final moments, my girlfriend and I began anxiously waiting for the end credits. What had started out as a solid story, fell apart quickly into a mess and a waste of time. Afterward, I couldn’t bring myself to even consider reviewing such a film. I didn’t know if it was a comedy (because it was rarely even clever), a drama (it didn’t want to play that way), or just a swan song to a dead icon (which was the worst one of the three). It couldn’t stand on it’s own two feet, and taking out 30 minutes would have only been the place to start fixing it.
The Rum Diary will leave you in a similar state
I know some of you will see the movie regardless of what one blogger thinks, and that’s fine. We should all be free to make our own opinions. But for my money, The Rum Diary is the worst movie of the year, second to only the tremendously off-putting and repulsive Bucky Larson. Watch it at your own peril. Better yet, watch Benny & Joon instead. And if you must, rent Pirates 4. At least the bandwagon Depp fans will know what you are talking about.