"The Rum Diary"
Release Date: Oct. 28, 2011
Running Time: 120 minutes
Long before Capt. Jack Sparrow consumed his career, Johnny Depp brought to life Hunter S. Thompson’s literary alter ego Raoul Duke in Terry Gilliam’s disappointing Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. Four Pirates of the Caribbean voyages later, and Depp’s once again channeling his late pal. This time Depp’s the drunken Paul Kemp in The Rum Diary, an adaptation of Thompson’s long-lost novel that was based on his experiences working as a jaded journalist for a failing newspaper in 1960s Puerto Rico. Less warped and confrontational than Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, and therefore by default vastly more entertaining, The Rum Diary is still just as much a mess. Seemingly retired after the 1992 flop Jennifer 8, Withnail & I’s writer/director Bruce Robinson is charged with the task out making something out of nothing from a flimsy and unresolved story about a group of developers led by Aaron Eckhart’s trying to paid for Kemp’s services so he can promote their dubious cause in his newspaper. There are times when The Rum Diary needs to be more than an excuse for Robinson to indulge in a series of amusing booze- and drug-fueled anecdotes that merely require Depp to freak out in bug-eyed reactive fashion. Robinson also struggles to bring Withnail & I’s manic wit and energy to The Rum Diary, so it never is as outrageous or subversive as it could be. Still, there’s much fun and craziness to found in the corruption and then the inevitable politicizing of Kemp. The Rum Diary is at its most hilarious when positioning Kemp as a fish out of water or as a journalist grappling with the responsibility that comes with his chosen professional. Temptation comes in the form of the sultry Amber Heard, and while sparks fly between her and Depp, The Rum Diary ultimately treats the Austin native as just part of Puerto Rico’s exotic scenery. The same cannot be said about Michael Rispoli, Richard Jenkins and Giovanni Ribisi, who all keenly contribute to the mild madness that informs their work colleague’s evolution from hack to gonzo journalist. Even if The Rum Diary isn’t quite the head trip that it was expected to be, and Depp isn’t at his comic best playing yet another lovable boozehound, it’s an encouraging sign that he wants to challenge himself again after going mainstream has cost him his edge.
Aired: Oct. 27, 2011
Web site: http://www.rumdiarythemovie.com/