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Lawrence Kasdan
William Hurt, Kathleen Turner, Geena Davis, Amy Wright, David Ogden Stiers, Ed Begley Jr., Bill Pullman, Robert Hy Gorman
Writing Credits:
Anne Tyler (book), Frank Galati, Lawrence Kasdan

Where to find your favorite fast-food hamburger in Paris? How many laundry soap packets does a trip to Atlanta require? Ask Macon Leary, whose guidebooks are revered by home-loving business travelers who loathe being in transit. About matters of the heart, don't ask Macon. He doesn't have a clue. At least, not yet.

This funny, tender film of Anne Tyler's best-seller reteams director Lawrence Kasdan with his Body Heat stars William Hurt and Kathleen Turner as misfiring Macon and wife Sarah, and showcases Geena Davis in her Best Supporting Actress Academy Award-winning role of romantically inclined dog-trainer Muriel. Chosen the year's best movie by the New York Film Critics Circle and a nominee for three Oscars, including Best Picture, The Accidental Tourist will leave you glowing.

Box Office:
Domestic Gross
$32.632 million.

Rated PG

Widescreen 2.35:1/16x9
English Dolby Digital 5.1
English Dolby 2.0
French Dolby 2.0

Runtime: 121 min.
Price: $19.97
Release Date: 1/20/2004

• Introduction by Lawrence Kasdan
• Scene-Specific Commentary with Geena Davis
• ďItís Like LifeĒ Featurette
• Lifted Scenes
• Trailer

Search Titles:

Sony 36" WEGA KV-36FS12 Monitor; Sony DA333ES Processor/Receiver; Panasonic CV-50 DVD Player using component outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Sony SA-WM40 Subwoofer.


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The Accidental Tourist (1988)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (January 8, 2004)

As Mick sang, you canít always get what you want, but if you try some times, you just might find youíll get what you need. That theme sits at the heart of 1988ís The Accidental Tourist.

The film introduces Macon Leary (William Hurt), an exceedingly cautious man from an exceedingly cautious family. He writes a series of books called The Accidental Tourist. These are guides for travelers who hate to travel and who want matters to be as conservative and innocuous as possible.

Maconís internal repression leads to his estrangement from his wife Sarah (Kathleen Turner) after the death of their son Ethan. He prefers to bottle up his feelings and withdraw from the world, which eventually leads to her departure, as she fears sheíll start to become like him.

When he needs to leave town on business for a week, Macon requires a place to board his dog Edward. He drops him off at a new establishment and meets Muriel Pritchett (Geena Davis) there. A divorcee, she instantly displays romantic interest in Macon, but he remains oblivious to the chatty, outgoing and flashy Murielís advances. She continues to push things and tries to use his dogís bad behavior as a route to his heart. This doesnít work.

Macon finds a way to disconnect from reality even further when he breaks his leg and goes to stay at the old family home with his sister Rose (Amy Wright) and brothers Charles (Ed Begley Jr.) and Porter (David Ogden Stiers). Theyíre more introverted than he, as we see when we watch their quirky behavior upon the visit of Maconís publisher Julian (Bill Pullman). The extremely tidy family actually alphabetizes their groceries when they put them in the cupboard.

When Edward bites Macon, everyone encourages him to ditch the dog, but he wonít because of Edwardís connection to the deceased Ethan. This leads Macon back to Muriel in an effort to tame the wild beast. As she trains the dog, she attempts to infiltrate her way into his heart in her own semi-pushy and eccentric way.

Essentially Tourist follows the slow path to romance between this pair. We see Maconís many attempts to resist as he reluctantly grows, and we also watch the complications that arise. In a parallel story, we follow the unlikely romance between Julian and Rose, as his swinging single publisher goes in the opposite direction of Macon to seek out greater stability.

As I alluded at the start of my review, that offers the main theme of Tourist. Situations that may outwardly sound all wrong to us sometimes end up being exactly what we need. Macon presents an extreme case of someone who resists change, but that helps illustrate the theme even more clearly; if a stick-in-the-mud like Macon can learn from an improbable situation, so can the rest of us.

Writer/director Lawrence Kasdan creates a deft mix of comedy and drama with Tourist. The film opens in a somber manner but then switches to the quietly absurd via the depictions of Muriel as well as Maconís family. Tourist always shows these characters and situations in an understated manner and allows the humor to emerge in a gentle way.

This allows those moments to succeed and keeps them from seeming mean-spirited. In addition, this helps the comedy to blend into the drama well. When Muriel goes from seeming like a ridiculous personality to one we take more seriously, the tender sense of humor previously displayed lets us buy into this.

That comes across best in arguably the filmís most moving moment. After he accepts an invitation to dinner, Macon tries to drop off a note to decline. Muriel catches him and he tells her his personal reasons for not wanting to get close to anyone. In response, she simply leads him upstairs and comforts him. The scene deftly creates a change in character without fireworks or anything showy; it just opens up matters in a natural and emotional manner.

Davis earned an Oscar for her portrayal of Muriel, and it seems deserved. The character easily could have been a goofy cartoon, but Davis enables Muriel to rise above her one-dimensional moments. Itís a fine performance that adds depth to the film.

Hurt made a career out of this sort of role, but he also brings uncommon strength to another part that could lack much depth. Macon doesnít seem like much of a stretch for Hurt, but he still contributes that WASP chilliness necessary along with the ability to grow. Macon develops in a natural way that seems believable and never violates the barriers of the character.

Tourist doesnít feature any easy answers. Itís not like Macon and Muriel hook up and heís ďfixedĒ. The film explores its issues with depth and gives us a nice examination of the concerns. Subtle and humorous enough for men, romantic enough for women, The Accidental Tourist presents a subdued but powerful piece.

The DVD Grades: Picture B-/ Audio B-/ Bonus B

The Accidental Tourist appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.35:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. A decent but unremarkable transfer, Tourist mostly looked fine.

Sharpness usually appeared positive. Occasional wider shots came across as somewhat soft, but those examples occurred infrequently. Otherwise, the image stayed reasonably distinctive and well defined. No issues with jagged edges appeared, but I saw a little shimmering at times, and a few small instances of edge enhancement also showed up at times. Print flaws presented minor distractions. Sporadic instances of specks and grit popped up through the film. These were a little more frequent than Iíd like, but they failed to create any strong issues.

A quiet, subdued movie, Tourist presented a quiet, subdued palette. Most of the movie demonstrated restricted tones, with the majority of the more vivid hues related to Murielís house and wardrobe. The DVD handled the colors fairly well, though skin tones occasionally seemed a little pinkish. Blacks were acceptably deep and firm, and shadow detail looked pretty concise. Some low-light shots were a bit dense, especially early in the film; the scenes in which Macon padded around his house seemed somewhat thick. Nonetheless, most of the time the flick presented clean visuals, and the DVD earned a decent ďB-Ē for its picture.

The Dolby Surround 2.0 soundtrack of The Accidental Tourist seemed similarly unremarkable but suitable for the project. No one would expect an aggressive mix for this sort of quiet drama, and the audio fit the material. The soundfield betrayed a heavy emphasis on the forward channels. Those presented good stereo imaging for the music and a decent sense of environment for effects. The latter elements created a nice feeling of place in their gentle way, and meshed together pretty well. Speech occasionally floated between channels and didnít always seem as cleanly localized as Iíd like, but it usually was appropriately centered.

The rear channels didnít bring much to the package. They added some reinforcement at times and occasionally portrayed some unique material, such as a car that went from front to rear, but the back speakers remained pretty inconsequential much of the time. However, that seemed fine with me, as the flick didnít require anything more than that.

Audio quality appeared solid. Some of Hurtís overdubbed book excerpts sounded somewhat hollow, but otherwise, dialogue was natural and distinctive. I noticed no signs of edginess or problems with intelligibility. Music was rich and fairly lush, as the instrumentation seemed clear and well defined. Effects stayed minor but accurate. They came across as clean and appropriately detailed. Nothing special occurred here, but the track supported the film acceptably well.

We get a mix of small extras with Tourist. We open with an introduction from writer/director/producer Lawrence Kasdan. He provides ďreflectionsĒ on the movie. In this three-minute and 10-second piece, he chats about themes and his intentions, and Kasdan also gets into a few aspects related to the making of the flick and reactions to it. Kasdan presents a decent little examination of the movie, but he doesnít offer much depth due to the brevity of the program.

For more from the director and others, we go to Itís Like Life, a 13-minute featurette about Tourist. This piece presents movie clips and comments from Kasdan plus actors Geena Davis and Kathleen Turner. Some of Kasdanís statements come from 2003, but most of the information was shot in 1988. We hear a few notes about characters, themes, and working methods, but the majority of the program simply shows shots from the flick and reiterates the story. Itís a surprisingly dull retrospective that presents little of use.

Additional information comes from a scene-specific audio commentary with actor Geena Davis. She chats for about 35 minutes of the movie and covers a mix of topics. Davis gets into her desire to play Muriel and how she obtained the part, her take on the role, working on location and with Hurt, and her reactions to the Oscar experience. Davis provides a lot of bang for the buck, as her short discussion includes lots of great material. The format makes it an easy listen, too; with the commentary active, it automatically skips from one scene to the next, so we donít get stuck with dead air. Davisís chat definitely merits a listen.

In addition to the flickís theatrical trailer, we get a whopping 18 lifted scenes. A substantial collection, these fill 38 minutes and five seconds. Many of them present totally deleted segments, whereas others portray elements they later re-shot. Itís a generally interesting set, and we even find a few bits that probably should have made the final film. For example, one appears that makes Muriel look like a stronger character, though not in an inappropriate way; it actually rectifies one problem I had with her depiction.

Not that I experienced many complaints in regard to The Accidental Tourist. It offered the kind of film I normally donít like, but it functioned so well that I really enjoyed it. The DVD presented decent but unexceptional picture and audio plus a moderately useful set of extras highlighted by an informative mini-commentary and a plethora of deleted scenes. Tourist earns my firm recommendation.

Viewer Film Ratings: 4.0952 Stars Number of Votes: 21
4 3:
View Averages for all rated titles.