Netflixable? “A Tourist’s Guide to Love”

“A Tourist’s Guide to Love” is a lovely Vietnamese travelogue in search of a romantic comedy that would transform the trip into a movie.

It’s a Rachel Leigh Cook star vehicle so inane that even she seems more interested in showing us the sights than focusing on the “just broke up with her boyfriend” and “flirts with the Vietnamese tour guide” story.

Calling it “cute” is as strained as the efforts at humor. “Insipid” just sounds mean, but is closer to the mark.

It’s about that old Paul Bowles/”Sheltering Sky” difference between “a tourist and a traveler.”

“A tourist wants to escape life,” tour guide Sinh (Scott Ly) enthuses. “A traveler wants to experience it.”

The woman he’s explaining that to (Cook) is Amanda Riley, a “secret shopper” from her LA travel agency taking a guided Vietnamese tour with a tiny local company that her boss (Missi Pyle) might want to buy.

She and her boss overshare a bit, which is why Amanda thought her beau of five years (Ben Feldman) was about to propose, when really he just wanted to tell her he was moving to Ohio.

Now she’s in the Exotic East, scouting “the hottest tourist destination” on the planet, trying to decide if Saigon Silver Star Tours — which ignores Ho Chi Minh City’s real name — is worth buying to give their company an entrée to the market.

Sinh and his cousin/driver Anh (Tranh Truc) take have a dozen tourists from Ho Chi Minh City to Da Nang and elsewhere “off the beaten path” “to show visitors the best possible Vietnam.”

They do. It’s gorgeous, from the Tet Lunar New Year celebrations, lantern-lined streets and water candles to Champa Empire ruins.

But the movie makes little attempt to flesh out the other tourists, blandly presents even the “visit to my grandmother’s village” sequences, and is so blandly cast that Missi Pyle on the phone is the most entertaining person in it. And even she’s watered down for this outing.

Sinh, who grew up in the U.S., flirts by saying her full name repeatedly — “Is Amanda Riley being impulsive?” “Is Amanda Riley learning to relax?”

Is Amanda Riley as bored as I was watching this?

Travel rom-coms are an ancient genre (“If it’s Tuesday, This Must be Belgium,” “My Life in Ruins”), and it’s laudable that they’re trying for something a little different here. But are they?

Top tip, if you find yourself so compelled, don’t forget Netflix has a playback speed adjustment on the lower right of the screen. At least the blase pauses between locations will pass by faster this way.

Rating: PG

Cast: Rachel Leigh Cook, Scott Ly, Thanh Truc, Ben Feldman, Nsut Le Thien and Missi Pyle.

Credits: Directed by Steven K. Tsuchida, scripted by Eirene Donohue. A Netflix release.

Running time: 1:36


About Roger Moore

Movie Critic, formerly with McClatchy-Tribune News Service, Orlando Sentinel, published in Spin Magazine, The World and now published here, Orlando Magazine, Autoweek Magazine
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