As its director, producer and star, Beatty aimed to translate Chester Gould’s iconic comic strip from the funny pages to the silver screen, and he did that wonderfully – with the help of its Oscar-winning production design and makeup effects, of course. The backlot artifice serves a purpose; the primary colors burst with wide-eyed appeal; and the old-fashioned cops-and-robbers tone is right in line with Gould’s mild-boiled, humorously exaggerated style.
While the script is as simple as uncoated cardboard, a feast of elements keeps viewers distracted: the rogue’s gallery of villains (headed by an over-the-top Al Pacino as greedy gangster Big Boy Caprice); Tracy’s gadgetry, most notably in the 2-Way Wrist Radio; Stephen Sondheim’s Broadway-style songs; Danny Elfman’s typically pop-bombastic score; the ridiculously natural child performance of Charlie Korsmo as Tracy’s young, homeless charge; Madonna’s revealing costumes that test the boundaries of the PG rating.
My uncle took my brothers and me to the movie’s midnight premiere in ’90 (where tickets were ugly, black souvenir T-shirts), but Dick Tracy has never looked as good as it does now on Blu-ray. Given the film’s long and troubled development, it’s disappointing that it does not come with any extras to relay and document that history, whether via documentary or commentary. Instead, all we get in the way of special features is a digital copy, which is a shame — and not just because a movie this capital-B big isn’t ideal viewing on an iPhone. —Rod Lott