Shh… I think I hear Peter Sellers spinning in his grave. Academy Award nominee Johnny Depp, Ewan McGregor, Paul Bettany and Academy Award winner Gwyneth Paltrow star in Mortdecai.
Cast of Characters:
Charlie Mortdecai – Johnny Depp
Johanna Mortdecai – Gwyneth Paltrow
Inspector Alistair Martland – Ewan McGregor
Georgina Krampf – Olivia Munn
Milton Krampf – Jeff Goldblum
Jock Strapp – Paul Bettany
Director – David Koepp
Screenplay – Eric Aronson
Based on the novel Don’t Point that Thing at Me by Kyril Bonfiglioli
Producer – Andrew Lazar, Johnny Depp, Christi Dembrowski & Patrick McCormick
Rated R for some language and sexual material
After a Goya painting that is rumored to have a code leading to a fortune in Nazi gold scribbled on its back goes missing, Inspector Martland (Ewan McGregor) turns to one man for help in solving the case – Charlie Mortdecai (Johnny Depp). With his trusty manservant Jock Strapp (Paul Bettany) by his side, Mortdecai stumbles into one escapade after the other, spanning the globe from London to Moscow to Los Angeles in search of the extremely valuable artifact.
You think the first half of January was bad, well you ain’t seen nothing yet as the stench of failure continues to pollute multiplexes everywhere with Johnny Depp’s new film Mortdecai.
While the trailers for this film left very little to be desired, there’s no reason to think on paper this couldn’t have worked. I haven’t read Kyril Bonfiglioli’s novel series this is based on, but I’ve read reviews that insisted they’re much more witty and clever than the final product here might otherwise lead you to believe. Caper films have been made with great success before, most notably the Peter Sellers Pink Panther series, and last year Wes Anderson handled the genre beautifully with The Grand Budapest Hotel. In the hands of a talented filmmaker, such as the aforementioned Anderson or even Steven Soderbergh (who turned in his own take on the genre with the remake of Ocean’s Eleven), Mortdecai could’ve been fun. What unfolds before our eyes, though, is a crap-bomb disaster.
While not a critically acclaimed filmmaker, director David Koepp has amassed a filmography that’s certainly nothing to be ashamed of (he first teamed up with Depp in the entertaining Secret Window), but it’s as evident as a sore thumb – well, make it a severed head that madcap caper is definitely not his wheelhouse. Both he and writer Eric Aronson (whose last screenwriting credit was the Lance Bass and Joey Fatone masterpiece On the Line) drag this film through 100 minutes – of which you feel every slow, aching millisecond – of tacky innuendo that fails to be funny or clever, slapstick jokes that are too slow to work effectively in a madcap film and roughly a million references to Mortdecai’s mustache, none of which are funny, yet Aronson feels the need to keep obsessing about it by having the titular character either asking how it looks or arguing with his wife over whether he should keep it or not.
Amidst the incoherent stabs at humor, I was mostly surprised to find out Aronson wedged in an actual plot into this film, which dabbles in a little bit of mystery, action, whodunit suspense, and fails at each one of them. Between Aronson and Koepp going for what seems to be a drinking game in the works for every time Mortdecai’s mustache is mentioned and the slew of lazy sex puns, little care is applied to the haphazard plot. It begs to question why they’d even bother throwing in the “big reveal” moment at the end. The only thing that would be more shocking than the so-called clever turn of events is if anyone’s still even tuned in by then.
Showing an equal lack of care in this project is the talented cast. Gwyneth Paltrow gets nothing to do other than smirk and share a recurring joke with Depp that has her gagging over his mustache (Or perhaps they were showing her clips of this film?), which leads to Depp’s “sympathetic” gag reflex. Ewan McGregor looks like he can’t wait to hit the nearest Home Depot so he can buy some white out and wipe this film off his resume. It’s downright criminal how underused the always entertaining Jeff Goldblum is here, and Olivia Munn’s performance is embarrassing.
The one exception is Paul Bettany, who scores the very few chuckles (despite his character’s stupid name) this film managed to force out of me as Mortdecai’s butler/muscle. Bettany hasn’t gotten that many opportunities in comedy, so it’s not surprising that he’s the only supporting player to put any effort whatsoever into his part.
And then we have Johnny Depp, going to exhausting efforts to channel both Jerry Lewis and Peter Sellers into a character that’s just as obnoxious as he is charmless and unfunny. There was a time when Depp was hailed as one of the most versatile actors in the business and for good reason. This is a man that went from Edward Scissorhands to What’s Eating Gilbert Grape to Ed Wood to Donnie Brasco to Blow to Pirates of the Caribbean to Finding Neverland and Sweeney Todd (of which the latter three he was nominated for Best Actor). Jack Sparrow was a fun performance, but it’s as if that’s the only type of role he wants to play now. See one manic, over-the-top Depp performance, you’ve seen ’em all, and this role is essentially what he’s been doing for the past decade sans makeup. Depp’s an amazing actor when he brings his A-game to the table, but it’s kinda sad to see him give such a flop performance in a colossal misfire when he’s capable of so much more.
As entertaining as it’d be to pass a kidney stone the size of a 10 lb. bowling ball, Mortdecai is a painfully dull, unfunny attempt at the caper genre. Not for lack of trying, though; in fact, this film goes to strenuous lengths to keep repeating it’s shitty jokes over and over and over again until someone has a moment of weakness and lets out a small laugh in the hopes it’ll get the movie to stop. What’s worse is that it features a talented cast, led by Johnny Depp in a desperately hammy performance, that should know better, and the fact that most of them hardly put any effort into this shows that even they probably realize this film sucks.
I give Mortdecai a D- (½★).