THE RUM DIARY
DIRECTED BY Bruce Robinson
STARS Johnny Depp, Aaron Eckhart
Johnny Depp has long worshipped at the altar of Hunter S. Thompson, so perhaps it's this idolatry that prevents him from acknowledging that The Rum Diary, an adaptation of a 1959 Thompson novel that wasn't even discovered until 1998 (reportedly by Depp himself), is a crushing mediocrity. As he did in Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, the actor again plays a fictionalized version of the influential journalist — here, he's pre-gonzo Paul Kemp, a mild-mannered writer whose stint at a struggling American newspaper in Puerto Rico allows him to eventually discover his fire, his passion, and his desire to stick it to the "bastards." Unfortunately, fire and passion are just two of the elements missing from this arid, disjointed effort, which isn't presented as a shaggy-dog story so much as a flea-bitten one. Kemp's interactions with a cheery capitalist (Aaron Eckhart) and his beauteous fiancee (Amber Heard) are rarely believable, while Giovanni Ribisi delivers one of his typically twitchy — and typically awful — turns as one of Kemp's confidantes. Ribisi's histrionics aside, The Rum Diary is unbearably sedate — a Prozac picture when a touch of reefer madness would have helped.