Years ago when Captain Jack Sparrow was wondering where all the rum had gone, he probably would have never guessed that it was being stockpiled for another movie by the man filling his shoes. That traitor! Johnny Depp’s appropriately titled new film, The Rum Diary, has lots of rum, and not much else.
Based on the book of the same name, The Rum Diary finds Paul Kemp in Puerto Rico as he continues his life as a reporter. At least that is what he tells himself, because let’s be honest, he went there to drink. And drink he does, using alcohol as a lubricant for better enjoyment of the island culture, mixing it up with the local cock fighters, sailing around in the calm seas, falling in “love” with a beautiful woman (albeit from Connecticut), catching wind of some white man corruption. You know, the usual.
Depp gives the role his all, granted it isn’t far from one of his most iconic characters of the recent past. He wobbles with the grace of a just-born giraffe, has a glazed expression in his eyes as he tries to focus on what is important, and for lack of a better phrase, he drinks far more than a sailor. Laughs are had, especially when he has a fellow newspaper worker in Sala (played by Michael Rispoli) to sing “99 Bottles of Rum on the Wall” with as they act it out together, but I think I passed my limit for rum soaked Depp a couple films back. Giovanni Ribisi joins the party from time to time as a fellow man searching for truths through a highly intoxicated state of mind (possibly weakened by brain damage at this point as well), and though he provides some fantastic lines whenever he’s on screen (at least when they aren’t too incoherently slurred), there quickly comes a point when watching the film just feels like what it was like to be the designated driver at a college party where everyone else is drunk. Generally the stupidity that people quickly sink to can provide plenty of laughs in response to their antics, but there comes a point where it loses its entertainment value and just becomes sad.
Surprisingly there is actually a deeper story to the film as Kemp comes across a fraction of the corruption mentioned above, and though he does have some ideals to stand on, these quickly get lost as he dedicates his time to other things. Seeing as the title is The Rum Diary this should probably be expected, but it just becomes impossible to believe in the character when he is living the lifestyle of an alcoholic. Occasionally he presents an article focusing on the issues of the island, but these are pushed aside by a boss who understands that this is not what the people reading the paper want, and Kemp hardly does anything to fight the system. If anything, he only does slightly attempt to bring the lies to light when he has no other options. He may have morals somewhere deep down, and beliefs worthy of praise in concern to how the world should be, but his conviction and dedication to things worthy of his time are drowned by the bottles he downs, leading to a lackluster film with just as little focus as the main character (and an even weaker ending).
The Rum Diary is good for a laugh or two, but in the end, save your money and go down to the local frat house to watch the natives embarrass themselves. The experience will be the same (except for the higher percentage of getting puked on).
Final Grade: C- Follow @BewareOfTrees