In this week's 'The Tourist,' an American (Johnny Depp) quietly visits Italy and finds himself swept up in an exotic tale of romance and thrills. That kind of thing pretty much happens every time an American visits Europe; there's no such thing as a relaxing getaway there. Here's a sample of seven different things that can happen to naïve, withdrawn, repressed, puritanical Americans when we visit the much older, wiser, more experienced continent.
1. Kidnappers Are Around Every Corner.
Don't turn your back for a second. Your wife could be missing when you get out of the shower. Your daughter could be gone before she's even left the airport. Your husband could wake up in a coffin underground. There could be some hidden reason for this, or it could be just because you're an American. See: 'Fantic,' 'Taken' and 'Buried.'
2. Get Ready to Run.
Many Americans in Europe wind up unexpectedly involved in some sort of espionage or crime or sting operation. This requires a good deal of hiding, running, handling of weapons, and finding some kind, oddball European (A cab driver? A hooker with a heart of gold?) that you can trust. Sometimes these events involve a history that goes back centuries, which a simple American can never fully comprehend. Sometimes this happens when Americans get too cocky or greedy, and sometimes it's merely a matter of wandering into the wrong train car and speaking to the wrong people. See: 'The Third Man,' 'Mr. Arkadin,' the 'Bourne,' movies, 'The Ninth Gate,' 'Transsiberian,' 'The Talented Mr. Ripley' and the 'Da Vinci Code' movies.
3. You're Dead Meat.
Oftentimes, Europeans simply want to torture you and then, eventually, leave your bloody, mutilated corpse on the dirty floor of a warehouse or a basement, especially somewhere remote. Usually Americans that wander into this trap are lost, in the woods, in the rain, with a flat tire. See: 'Hostel,' 'The Human Centipede' and 'Turistas' (set in South America, but the same idea).
4. Surprise! You're the Ugly American!
You may think you're cool, funny, smart, educated, tough, refined, or whatever, but before you know it, you're embarrassing yourself and your entire country! See Kevin Kline in 'A Fish Called Wanda,' John Travolta in 'From Paris with Love,' Adam Goldberg in '2 Days in Paris' and the Griswold family in 'National Lampoon's European Vacation.' Otherwise, your tendency towards violence can ruin half of an ancient, beautiful city, i.e. 'Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade' and 'Knight and Day.'
5. Find True Passion.
Americans are too busy, shallow and self-involved to understand true passion and romance. Europeans all read poetry, so they know much better. Many an American has traveled abroad and found romance, passion and love way beyond anything that their American hearts ever knew was possible. See Katharine Hepburn in 'Summertime,' Diane Lane in 'A Little Romance' and 'Under the Tuscan Sun,' Julia Roberts in 'Notting Hill,' Gene Kelly in 'An American in Paris,' and Ethan Hawke in 'Before Sunrise' and 'Before Sunset.'
6. If You Don't Find Romance, You'll at Least Find Great Sex.
For the same reasons mentioned above, Europeans are much better and more exotic lovers than Americans, and sometimes a lucky, lucky American can find a European companion that will open up all kinds of previously unknown erotic avenues. See 'Vicky Cristina Barcelona' and Bertolucci's 'Stealing Beauty' and 'The Dreamers.'
7. It's a Great Place for Self-Discovery.
If none of these exciting or erotic things happen to you, then at the very least, you'll re-discover yourself, and renounce your greedy, petty, shortsighted American ways. Maybe you'll find some part of your past history that puts perspective on things. Maybe you'll meet some genuinely good-hearted people that will put your materialistic ways to shame. Or maybe you'll find yourself totally lost and you'll meet a like-minded soul in the most unlikely of places. See 'Everything Is Illuminated,' 'The Darjeeling Limited,' 'Eat Pray Love,' 'Local Hero' and 'Lost in Translation.'
Failing all this, perhaps you'll just be turned into a werewolf. (See 'An American Werewolf in London' and 'An American Werewolf in Paris.')