June 22, 2013 / by tom
Movie #5 – Dick Tracy
Year – 1990
After seeing the pile of money that resulted from Batman, Hollywood studios looked around and collectively said, “Get me one of them there comic book movies!” And Hollywood studios, being Hollywood studios, didn’t really understand (nor did they care) about the difference between comic books and comic strips. It was all “funny pages” to them so they rushed Dick Tracy into production.
Once all the big-name actors saw the daily deliveries of money to Jack Nicholson’s place, they were able to assemble a star-studded cast. Warren Beatty, Madonna, Al Pacino, Dustin Hoffman and Dick Van Dyke all have roles. (Side Note: Beatty and Hoffman in the same movie? After Ishtar? Dude, that takes balls.)
While the film was a striking recreation of the classic comic strip, the story left a lot to be desired. Given that the entire thing was built on the template of Tim Burton’s Batman, the proceedings felt more like a marketing machine than an actual movie. While the movie was a modest hit, it was intended to be a blockbuster. However, blocks remained decidedly un-busted after its release.
Disney executive Jeffrey Katzenberg was so disappointed with the film’s performance that he wrote an infamous 28-page memo in which he bemoaned the soulless state of an industry more focused on money and marketing than storytelling. Katzenberg felt Dick Tracy embodied everything that was wrong with Hollywood and that they should focus on their current project which had heart. It would be precisely the sort of franchise that America would embrace and that they could be proud of. If that memo sounds familiar it’s because it was the basis for Jerry Maguire’s “mission statement”.
Oh, and the movie that was destined to leave Dick Tracy in its wake? It was The Rocketeer. Hey, nobody bats a thousand.