One of the great pulp/comic strip characters of all time was featured in a 1990 movie with Warren Beatty. Dick Tracy came out a year later than the Tim Burton 1989 Batman, but the films shared a definitive tone.
Police detective Dick Tracy (Warren Beatty) is out to bring down crime lord Big Boy Caprice (Al Pacino) and his variety of henchmen while trying to balance his relationship with dame Tess Trueheart (Glenne Headly). Along the way, Dick helps out a street orphan, Kid (Charlie Korsmo).
When Big Boy kills Lips Manlis (Paul Sorvino), his nightclub’s singer Breathless Mahoney (Madonna) is an eye witness and Dick tries to get her to testify, bringing trouble right to his front door step.
Dick Tracy is an iconic cartoon strip and this film does an incredible job of bringing that comic strip to life. The very feel of the city gives it life and, much like Gotham in Batman films, a character all unto its own. The colors here make this different than Gotham and gives the movie its cartoon ambiance.
The characters are also extremely over the top cartoony which gives a flare to the film. The ugly villains and the brightly colored police create a wonderful contraction.
The score does remind one of the Batman ’89 score. Part of that reason was the scores for both movies were done by Danny Elfman. There was a time that Dick Tracy was running along the rooftops that I actually thought they were using the actual Batman theme.
The cast of Dick Tracy is amazing. Not only does Warren Beatty completely inhabit the body of the iconic detective, Al Pacino is utterly perfect as the enigmatic criminal. Throw in roles for Dustin Hoffman, William Forsythe, Charles Durning, Mandy Patinkin, Kathy Bates, Dick Van Dyke, Catherine O’Hara, Estelle Parsons, James Caan, and Charles Fleischer. It is an unbelievable excess of talent making up these characters, and many times unrecognizable characters. You have Oscar winner Dustin Hoffman playing a character named Mumbles who, as his name says, just mumbles when he talks.
The story is not overly strong and it feels as if the film is disjointed like a comic strip, which may have been purposeful. However, there is a nice reveal at the end of the third act, which is fairly solid by comparison to some of these types of films.
The best part of the movie is the relationship between Dick Tracy and the Kid. The sweet connection between the sticky-fingered orphan and the hard-nosed and gruff cop works very well and you connect more to Dick Tracy by seeing him through the Kid’s eyes. Charlie Korsmo, the actor who played Kid, had several big roles in the early 1990s including Hook and What About Bob?. As an adult, Korsmo has become a successful lawyer and assistant professor of law at Case Western Reserve University School of Law.
This is about as well done as you could ask for when you try to bring Dick Tracy to life. I found this even more interesting now than I did back when I first saw it. Dick Tracy is a lot of fun.