‘Rum Diary’ Leaves Audiences Sober

Eric Bourse, El Vaquero Staff Writer

In spite of its title, most audience members of “The Rum Diary” will turn to caffeine as their drug of choice after two mediocre hours of liquor-drenched antics of alcoholic journalists.

The movie is directed by Bruce Robinson (“Jennifer Eight,” 1992) who also wrote the screenplay, which is an adaptation of the novel written by Hunter S. Thompson. Thompson was credited with creating gonzo journalism, a type of reporting that makes the writer as a central part of the story.

The novel was a fictionalized account of Thompson’s time as a journalist in Puerto Rico during the early 1960s.

The film stars Johnny Depp (“Pirates of the Carribean: On Stranger Tides,” 2011) as Thompson’s stand-in, Paul Kemp, an unsuccessful author from New York, who flies to Puerto Rico to land a job at the dying newspaper, The San Juan Star.

This is the second time Depp has starred in a Thompson movie. In 1998, he portrayed Raoul Duke in the Terry Gilliam’s “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas,” and actually became close friends with Thompson.

Luckily for Kemp, he is the only person who applied for a job there and gets hired by the editor, Edward Lotterman, played by Richard Jenkins (“Hall Pass,” 2011), immediately. However, despite Kemp’s ambitions to write hard-hitting and engaging stories, he is assigned only to write fluff articles about bowling tourists and horoscopes.

The feeble story gets a little thicker when Kemp meets a corrupt yet likeable land developer, Sanderson, played by Aaron Eckhart (“Battle: Los Angeles,” 2011). Kemp is offered a huge payoff to write favorable articles that will aid Sanderson in landing a massive resort development deal.

Kemp immediately falls in love with Sanderson’s fiancée, Chenault, played by Amber Heard (“Drive Angry,” 2011) and thus begins the film’s shallow romance plot line. There is very little in the movie’s story that shows why these two characters are drawn to each other besides “love at first sight.”

With his fixation on Chenault and witnessing how the locals are getting the short end of the stick on Sanderson’s business practices, Kemp has second thoughts but realizes he is already in over his head.

The acting is solid ,including Michael Rispoli (“Kick Ass,” 2010) and Giovanni Ribisi (“Avatar,” 2009) who play Kemp’s journalist sidekicks and fellow alcoholics, Bob Sala and Moberg.

Ribisi’s performance as Moberg is especially noteworthy as his character is in a constant and belligerent altered state of mind.

There are some great moments in the film, such as the thrilling scene when Kemp and Sala run for their lives from angry locals with homicidal intentions. The explosive arguments between Lotterman and Moberg are hilarious and the scene in which Sala and Kemp take LSD is entertaining as well.

However, there are simply not enough of these compelling scenes. If there is one thing the film has plenty of, it’s alcohol. Maybe if the characters decided to put their glasses down for a few seconds, they might have done more interesting things.

The biggest problems with the film are Robinson’s directing and screenplay. The direction is bland and uninspired and the film’s plot is disjointed and moves at a snail’s pace at times. When the film begins picking up some steam in the last 30 minutes or so, it ends with a disappointing whimper.

Although the film drags on in parts, “The Rum Diary” suffers from a case of “not enough.” There isn’t enough comedy, romance, thrills or drama to justify the price of admission.

“Diary” is by no means the worst film of 2011, but it is

easily one of the more forgetful

ones of the year.

The film is rated R for language, drug use and sexual content and runs for 120 minutes.