Synopsis - Hero cop Dick Tracy (Warren Beatty) goes after the gangsters running the town, headed by Big Boy Caprice (Al Pacino), with the unrequested help of a cute little orphan (Charlie Korsmo), but when Big Boy's trophy lady (Madonna), a valuable witness, develops a thing for Tracy, he finds himself in danger of losing his girl as well.
Music - Surprisingly and not surprisingly, Danny Elfman scored this film. At times it’s barely recognizable as his music, but the low brass and his fetish for quarter note triplets gives it away. It’s a relief to see him do a film that doesn’t have Tim Burton’s name on it, even if the entire thing is clearly inspired by him. Also, Madonna stars in the film as a lounge singer, and so obviously she does a lot of singing. Very, very good singing.
Acting - I’ve always had a serious soft spot for Warren Beatty as an actor, but he's a great director and producer as well. He produced Bulworth, Bugsy, and unfortunately, The Pick-Up Artist - Robert Downey, Jr.'s first post-SNL atrocity, but we'll forgive them both for that. Dick Tracy is a masterpiece, and I can't say I've seen anything like this out of Beatty before, but there’s clear homage to Tim Burton and the old private eye flicks, and I approve. There are a lot of the old clichés from the private eye flicks, like flying newspaper headlines, a dark silhouette standing in the corner of the screen, hiding, watching something go down, etc. The movie is a caricature of itself, of course. You're expecting Beatty to say "Here's lookin' at you, kid" and chuck Madonna on the chin at any moment
Visually this is a feast - it has a Tim Burton-esque quality, with vividly colored and obviously cardboard or cheap plastic sets, giving it a deliberately cheesy and cartoonish feel. The backdrops were obviously done up in the computer, intricate pieces of artwork digitized and again filled with color. The characters are all dressed up in brightly colored outfits and each one has some particular physical distortion. It's amazing.
You can see a lot of Dick Tracy in Sin City, Robert Rodriguez's incredible comic book film, not only because of the physical exaggeration of the characters, but because Bruce Willis's character in Sin City is basically a twisted version of Dick Tracy, and the girl who worships him is a version of The Kid who worships Dick Tracy. But physical distortion is a huge device in Dick Tracy. Al Pacino is only recognizable by his voice, but he’s something else here. His trademark is that nuclear flipout, and luckily for us, he is constantly flipping out through this entire movie in all his vein-bulging, red-faced glory. He’s absolutely hilarious. The only character that really pissed me off was Madonna’s character, the overly horny floozy Breathless, a lounge singer “belonging” to Big Boy, who is constantly trying to get in Tracy’s pants. However, while her character might have annoyed me, she does sing quite well.
Dustin Hoffman plays Mumbles, a really great character whose mouth is physically placed somewhat to the left of what’s considered normal, and who only speaks in unintelligible mumbles, hence the name. His few scenes of any length were priceless, but unfortunately he didn’t appear too much throughout the movie. This is really an impressive cast, but the thing is that all these big names play very modest roles. Either their faces are so made up that it’s impossible to even recognize them, or their roles are really tiny – they obviously did it out of love for the project – Paul Sorvino, who gets offed in the first half hour, Kathy Bates, Dick Van Dyke as the DA, Charles Durning as the Chief of Police, Colm Meaney, Catherine O’Hara, James Caan, Frank Campanella… the list goes on.
Other movies starring these actors
Warren Beatty - Bulworth, Bugsy, Shampoo
Charlie Korsmo - Can't Hardly Wait, Hook, What About Bob?
Al Pacino - Scarface, Carlito's Way, The Godfather, Heat, Scent of a Woman
Madonna - Die Another Day, The Next Best Thing, Evita, A League of Their Own, Desperately Seeking Susan