The last hit before Warren Beatty ran into a streak of either underappreciated or problematic productions that has lasted for about 12 years, "Dick Tracy" was the actor's 1990 attempt to successfully bring the comic book to the big screen. The spare-no-expense look and feel of the picture is certainly one of its greatest assets - the production design and cinematography are simply marvelous.
The film does not have a particularly memorable plot, which is its main fault. The story is a simple crime drama - Beatty plays Dick Tracy, a detective looking to rid the streets of such criminals as 88 Keys (Mandy Patinkin), Flattop, Mumbles (Dustin Hoffman) and Big Boy Caprice (Al Pacino). Of course, all of the criminals are also looking to stop Tracy while he's trying to put them behind bars. On Tracy's side are Tess Trueheart (Glenne Headly) and the Kid (Charlie Korsmo, who left acting after this film only to return for 1997's teen comedy "Can't Hardly Wait"). There's also the noir-ish dame, a lounge singer named Breathless, played by Madonna.
The plot is simple and straight-forward, not substancial - nor does it really need to be. What amazes in this film - and still is impressive 12-years-later - is the way that production designer Richard Sylbert and cinematographer Vittorio Storaro, along with the film's costume designer, have created the film's universe so wonderfully. The skylines that have been created are visibly artificial, but the design, colors are general look of the cityscape is still beautiful. Sylbert won an Oscar for his role, while Storaro was nominated.
The performances are also very good. Beatty hasn't seemed as confident in a performance since this picture. Madonna plays her role well, but it's hardly a role - there's little to the character. Pacino is able to chew up the scenery well; he seems like he's having fun - he's loud without being irritating. Charlie Korsmo has a few funny moments as the Kid and he manages to not get in the way or be irritating.
I still don't think that "Dick Tracy" is an outstanding picture, but it's strong entertainment, well-crafted and performed.
VIDEO: Buena Vista presents "Dick Tracy" in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen, even though the back of the box does not state that it is anamorphic. The picture quality of the studio's catalog titles that were released during the same week as "Dick Tracy" looked anywhere from very mediocre to fair, so it was a pleasant surprise that, while "Dick Tracy" didn't look fantastic, it did look good. Sharpness and detail remained very good throughout the film - while Vittorio Storaro's cinematography gives the film a slightly soft appearance, the picture still remains crisp enough to admire the detail of the sets.
I did have some issues with the presentation, but they weren't major. Some slight grain was visible at times during the picture, but never was terribly noticable. Edge enhancement was seen, but hardly bothersome. On the other hand, there were some moments of pixelation that were noticable and a bit irritating. On a positive note, the print remained largely clean and clear, with the exception of a couple of specks and a mark or two.
Colors looked fairly well presented. There were times when colors could appear a bit smeared, but otherwise, the film's very vibrant color palette looked good. This isn't an outstanding presentation, but I found it moderately enjoyable.
SOUND: While "Dick Tracy" was not presented in 5.1 theatrically, Buena Vista has saw fit to not only present the picture here in Dolby Digital 5.1, but DTS 5.1, as well. I was genuinely surprised at how enjoyable this soundtrack is. While not as agressive as most new pictures, the soundtrack certainly put the surrounds to good use, whether it was for Danny Elfman's score or sound effects. Speaking of Elfman's score, it sounded marvelous throughout this presentation - it roars to life to start the movie and sounds remarkably strong and dynamic throughout. Any sound effects during the action sequences also had considerable power, as well. Dialogue remained clear and crisp, although some instances of yelling by Pacino's character could sound a bit rough. While this isn't going to compare to the soundtracks offered by more recent action pictures, it delivered a stronger sound experience than I'd expected.
MENUS: Basic, non-animated menus.
EXTRAS: Nothing. While there has been rumors of a "Dick Tracy" Vista Series Special Edition with a director's cut of the movie - this isn't it. There's not even a trailer here.
Final Thoughts: "Dick Tracy" is an entertaining action/drama that's well-acted and beautifully-crafted. Buena Vista's DVD is rather dissapointing in the fact that I'd expect a film this successful to get more of a special edition, but hopefully, the rumored Vista Series edition will hopefully eventually appear. Until then, this DVD provides decent video quality and strong audio, but no supplements.
The Film *** 1/2