Dick Tracy ★★★★★

My friend's new bride arranged for a guy's night, and since we're all happenin' dudes, that wound up consisting of watching Dick Tracy and playing Risk. Periodically, one of us would remark on different things we appreciated about the movie.

The color scheme, based on bold, solid primary and secondary colors, was one thing that kept coming up. It really is the closest that any of us could think of a movie recreating the visual aesthetic of a comic strip. Part of the credit for that should probably go to the cinematography, too, but I don't think any of us noted much about that except to point out specific shots we loved.

The Academy Award-winning makeup was another area of comment. So were the costumes, sets, and cars. Living in the CGI era, Dick Tracy is even more impressive. I can't point to one area of the film that would have been improved by digital effects. It's an old school movie made with old school techniques, and as time goes by I think it'll only continue to impress as it looks so much better than a lot of films that have followed it.

No matter what anyone may have to say about Madonna in any other movie role, her career overall, or even as a person, anyone who thinks she wasn't perfect as Breathless Mahoney just wants to dislike the woman. There's not a weak link in the cast to be found, but it's impossible to think of anyone from her era being better suited to that role than Madonna, and since so much of the film is built around Breathless, it's difficult to overstate her importance to it.

The music is the last area of conversation we discussed. Danny Elfman's score is a favorite, and it's pretty easy to find similarities with his iconic Batman score from the year before. In addition to Madonna's songs, written by Stephen Sondheim, there are the assorted source music recordings that were collected on the Various Artists Dick Tracy album. To my knowledge, this movie was the first to have three soundtrack albums, which is a subject I've been meaning to broach in a blog piece.

Dick Tracy isn't a gritty crime noir, or a contemplation of social injustice. It's a fun adventure story in the grand tradition, made for an audience for whom it was meant to simply entertain. The action is surprisingly light, confined primarily to a handful of scenes: the shooting of Lips Manliss's gang, the drive-by at Tess Trueheart's apartment, the broiler room "accident", the kidnapping of Tess, the framing of Dick Tracy, and the finale showdown at the Club Ritz. These things don't happen every seven minutes because Warren Beatty trusted his audience to have an attention span for character development.

Even above the aesthetic brilliance of the film, it's that respect for audience that is why 23 years later, Dick Tracy is so satisfying.

Dick Tracy Re-Ranked on My Flickchart (#50/1584)

Dick Tracy > The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad --> #50
I always liked The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad, but there's not one thing I don't love about Dick Tracy.

Dick Tracy > Summertime --> #50
Katherine Hepburn in Venice is charming enough to overcome the lightweight narrative of Summertime, but not enough to overcome the coolness of Dick Tracy.

Dick Tracy > The 39 Steps --> #50
Both are fun and well-crafted. If I had seen The 39 Steps much earlier in life than I did, I might pick it here. I've simply cared a lot more about Dick Tracy a lot longer, and it gets the nod on that basis.

Dick Tracy > Bambi --> #50
Bambi made more of an impression on me, but I discovered earlier this year that despite its terrific animation that its story is paper-thin. Dick Tracy is amazing to look at, and its narrative is solid, if lightweight. It gets the nod.

Dick Tracy > The Thomas Crown Affair (1999) --> #50
Tough call for me to make here, but as much fun as The Thomas Crown Affair is, I favor Dick Tracy. It's the kind of old school film-making spectacle that has been buried by CGI and I miss it.

Dick Tracy < Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country --> #50
Two of the five movies I obsessed over the most in my early adolescence here. Ultimately, I have to go with Star Trek VI for its Cold War commentary and for being my gateway into the Trek franchise.

Dick Tracy > Crazy, Stupid, Love. --> #36
Crazy, Stupid, Love. shook me, and means even more to me now my marriage has collapsed. On a day when I'm thinking of such things, it would win. Right now, I'm more of the mind for fun; Dick Tracy wins.

Dick Tracy > Lincoln --> #30
I can't say enough good about Daniel Day-Lewis's performance as/in Lincoln, but I simply care more about Dick Tracy.

Dick Tracy > Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom --> #27
If there was going to be an Indiana Jones movie to beat Dick Tracy, it'd be Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, but I can't quite bring myself to pick against Beatty's Tracy.

Dick Tracy < The Sting --> #27
41 days ago, I wrote: "Two love letters to the mythologized underbelly of 30s Chicago, and I adore them both. Dick Tracy is a lot of fun, but The Sting is a lot of fun *and* it's brilliant. It gets the nod." I stand by that.

Dick Tracy was re-ranked on my Flickchart to #27/1584

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