Thinking of seeing the new Johnny Depp movie? The trailers and previews that have appeared on television make “The Rum Diary” out to be a hilarious movie. Well, if you have watched those trailers or seen those commercials, you don’t have to go spend over $10 to see the entire film. Every funny or comical scene in the nearly two-hour movie was put into the commercials. That leaves a good amount of down time.
Another downfall of the commercials: they don’t tell the actual story. It is difficult to pinpoint the plot of Depp’s latest movie simply because there isn’t one. The movie is based on the novel written by Hunter S. Thompson fictionally accounting for his experiences in Puerto Rice in the late 50s. Thompson wrote his novel early on in his career, yet was not published until years later. It is obvious why this happened, seeing how disappointing the adaption to film was.
Depp plays Paul Kemp, a journalist who takes a job writing for an English-speaking newspaper in Puerto Rico. The paper is known by Americans on the small island for writing stories about who won the latest jackpot at one of the casinos or who bowled a perfect game. It is not the most accredited newspaper and Kemp joins the staff has the paper is running itself into the ground.
Kemp fits in wonderfully into the Puerto Rican culture which is characterized as being full of late nights and rum. Playing a drunk, yet again, obviously comes easy to Depp. He does not do a bad job acting as Kemp, but he does not physically fit the part. Kemp comes across to the audience as a young man who has not exactly found his niche in life. He wanders around during the film trying to find his role in the world, a reason for his coming to Puerto Rico. Depp is just too old to be playing a young, naïve journalist.
The movie reflects its main character. As Kemp wanders around Puerto Rico drunk, the movie wanders around a loose and boring plot. A love interest (Amber Heard as Chenault) appears, disappears, and reappears again at the end in a text wrap-up. There is no reason why Chenault and Kemp get along so well apart from a physical attraction. Kemp and Chenault flirt throughout the movie, but she is engaged to a wealthy businessman (Sanderson played by Aaron Eckhart) who wants Kemp to join his latest building efforts. After acting a bit “loose” while at a festival, Chenault’s fiancé kicks her out, forcing her to fall into the arms of love-struck Kemp. After she leaves Kemp while he is out, the audience is left to think she is only an opportunistic vixen.
Kemp gets involved in a variety of scuffles, including jail time and a business deal with his love interest’s fiancé. Sanderson wants to turn Puerto Rico into a money machine filled with hotels and needs the writing expertise of Kemp to make his crooked plans sound appealing the native people. Kemp goes along with the plan at first until he suddenly finds fault in it. This seems to have more to do with Chenault than the corrupt plans themselves. Before even meeting Sanderson Kemp wants to expose the terrible conditions of parts of the island, but these efforts fade and are never addressed again. After Sanderson kicks Kemp out of his business deal, Kemp then wants to expose him in the paper but the editor turned corrupt as well and the paper folds. Kemp wants to right this wrong too. Yeah right…
There are plenty of opportunities for action or conflict, but nothing ever happens. Two hours is entirely too long for a lack luster plot. Every funny scene occurs in the first thirty minutes leaving the audience to wonder if they are supposed to laugh at the forcibly funny scenes later on in the film.
If you have seen the commercials then you have already seen the best parts of the movie. I would not suggest seeing it in theaters or even renting the movie. Compared to some really great films that have come out this year, “The Rum Diary” is a huge disappointment.
Overall grade: C