It was the trickle of pee heard around the world. Cannes attendees were aghast and/or amused an infamous scene from The Paperboy that shows Nicole Kidman urinating on Zac Efron; this is apparently a great salve for jellyfish burns which were covering our Ken Doll-like protagonist. (In fact the term protagonist should be used very loosely for Efron's character Jack who is mostly acted upon than active throughout.)
Lurid! Sexy! Perverse! Trashy! Whether or not it's actually effective is overshadowed by all the hubbub that's attached itself to the movie for better or worse. In fact the movie is all of these things — but that's actually not a compliment. What could have become somethingmemorable is jaw-droppingly bad (when it's not hilarious). Director Lee Daniels uses a few different visual styles throughout from a stark black and white palette for a crime scene recreation at the beginning to a '70s porno aesthetic that oscillates between psychedelic and straight-up sweaty with an emphasis on Efron's tighty-whiteys. This only enhances the sloppiness of the script which uses lines like narrator/housekeeper/nanny Anita's (Macy Gray) "You ain't tired enough to be retired " to conjure up the down-home wisdom of the South. Despite Gray's musical talents she is not a good choice for a narrator or an actor for that matter. In a way — insofar as they're perhaps the only female characters given a chunk of screen time — her foil is Charlotte Bless Nicole Kidman's character. Anita is the mother figure who wears as we see in an early scene control-top pantyhose whereas Charlotte is all clam diggers and Barbie doll make-up. Or as Anita puts it "an oversexed Barbie doll."
The slapdash plot is that Jack's older brother Ward (Matthew McConaughey) comes back to town with his colleague Yardley (David Oyelowo) to investigate the case of a death row criminal named Hillary Van Wetter. Yardley is black and British which seems to confuse many of the people he meets in this backwoods town. Hillary (John Cusack) hidden under a mop of greasy black hair) is a slack-jawed yokel who could care less if he's going to be killed for a crime he might or might not have committed. He is way more interested in his bride-to-be Charlotte who has fallen in love with him through letters — this is her thing apparently writing letters and falling in love with inmates — and has rushed to help Ward and Yardley free her man. In the meantime we're subjected to at least one simulated sex scene that will haunt your dreams forever. Besides Hillary's shortcomings as a character that could rustle up any sort of empathy the case itself is so boring it begs the question why a respected journalist would be interested enough to pursue it.
The rest of the movie is filled with longing an attempt to place any the story in some sort of social context via class and race even more Zac Efron's underwear sexual violence alligator innards swamp people in comically ramshackle homes and a glimpse of one glistening McConaughey 'tock. Harmony Korine called and he wants his Gummo back.
It's probably tantalizing for this cast to take on "serious" "edgy" work by an Oscar-nominated director. Cusack ditched his boombox blasting "In Your Eyes" long ago and Efron's been trying to shed his squeaky clean image for so long that he finally dropped a condom on the red carpet for The Lorax so we'd know he's not smooth like a Ken doll despite how he was filmed by Daniels. On the other hand Nicole Kidman has been making interesting and varied career choices for years so it's confounding why she'd be interested in a one-dimensional character like Charlotte. McConaughey's on a roll and like the rest of the cast he's got plenty of interesting projects worth watching so this probably won't slow him down. Even Daniels is already shooting a new film The Butler as we can see from Oprah's dazzling Instagram feed. It's as if they all want to put The Paperboy behind them as soon as possible. It's hard to blame them.
Maybe the most ridiculous part of the ridiculousness is Turistas' lack of subtlety with which everything kicks off. Immediately after the opening scene in which we meet the clear-cut tourists--Alex (Josh Duhamel) Bea (Olivia Wilde) Amy (Beau Garrett) Finn (Desmond Askew) and Liam (Max Brown)--their bus crashes and falls off a cliff in Brazil. They meet fellow foreigner Pru (Melissa George) who is fluent in Portuguese. The survivors stumble upon a hedonistically idyllic beach where they’re free to skinny dip drink and flirt (and more) with each other and the locals. Paradise ends when they wake up the next morning broke and barefoot. With the aid of a local Kiko (Agles Steib) they wander around trying to find help and transportation. But all they find is trouble at every turn before Kiko finally takes them to the house of someone he knows. It’s okay he’s a doctor! Oh the prettiness of this cast! Prettiest of them all is Duhamel aka Tad Hamilton/Fergie’s boyfriend. For female viewers it’s simply not going to matter that Turistas isn’t a shining moment for the TV's Las Vegas star--his on-off shirt ratio is all they’ll see. But it should be noted that if Duhamel didn’t look as though he just sprinted over from a special exotic edition of an Abercrombie & Fitch photo shoot his performance unexpressive and lacking urgency in the right spots would be a failure to everyone. There’s plenty to make the guys happy too as Wilde (The O.C.) Garrett and the uncredited local Brazilian women are happy to ditch their clothes. George (The Amityville Horror) is the prude of the group only stripping down to her g-string! She’s also the movie’s only real talent but it’ll be wasted on the sex-and-gore thirsty who willingly go see Turistas. No guts no glory--which is to say it seems that if no guts (read: organs) are shown a horror movie by today’s standards just can’t measure up. By that criterion Turistas succeeds; everywhere else it fails which as we’ve seen doesn’t mean audiences won’t eat it up. In fact director John Stockwell(crazy/beautiful Into the Blue...must we go on?) makes the audience think just seldom enough that people might just fall victim for this crassness. Stockwell seems to mimic Eli Roth’s Hostel template in every way possible down to the story that’s merely set in a different locale--but he winds up elevating Roth’s hugely successful gore-fest even more than when it was released and revered. Where Roth’s movie unapologetically basks in its (bloody) glow and appeals to true horror fans Stockwell’s seems confused as though it wants to do the same and win over say those who made I Know What You Did Last Summer a hit. The cinematography clearly trying to set up screams with near pitch-blackness is actually too dark often rendering the movie literally unwatchable--aside from being qualitatively unwatchable. And the script from first-timer Michael Ross is also shaky though not as much so as the hands it was placed into.