Synopsis – Juggling angry Russians, the British Mi5, and an international terrorist, debonair art dealer and part time rogue Charlie Mortdecai races to recover a stolen painting rumored to contain a code that leads to lost Nazi gold.
My Take – People may hate me for saying this, well not anymore actually – I am not a fan of Johnny Depp! Yes! He has done a set of good movies & of course has the ‘Pirates of Caribbean’ franchise to his name. But yet I always ask: How many times can you end up doing a good hearted goof ball or a crazy character with different set of make ups & expect it to work? Unfortunately for him the audience has realized the whole play, as a result all his films with or without prosthetics have failing miserably! Ever since the “Pirates of the Caribbean” franchise, Depp has continuously been giving headlining roles in projects with enormous budgets that have either barely broke even, went on to be record box office bombs, or simply withered away without anything of a pop culture impact. His last few films, “The Tourist”, “The Rum Diary,” “Dark Shadows,” “The Lone Ranger,” and “Transcendence” all have put up meager numbers at the box office when compared to their respective budgets, but, for whatever reason, financiers and movie studios still funnel money towards Depp’s films, with or without any franchise history. Here again, Depp headlines another film based on a set of comic novel anthology by Kyril Bonfiglioli. Honestly Depp is actually good in it, unfortunately the film is not! The story follows Lord Charlie Mortdecai (Johnny Depp), a pompous, wealthy art dealer who tries to portray himself as classy, comes off of a goof. He lives in a large home along with his man servant/muscle Jock Strapp (Paul Bettany) and his wife who he always declares as the love of his life Johanna (Gwyneth Paltrow). A Goya painting is stolen from a woman that was working on restoring the artwork. So this puts inspector Alistair Martland (Ewan McGregor) on the case. He has a thing for Johanna, so he contacts Mortdecai for his services, knowing that this would keep the eccentric busy while he get’s cozy with the wife. Mortdecai’s investigations unveil that the painting was once taken by Nazis and may have codes on it that lead to a lost Swiss bank account. The biggest problem with the film is it has no clue for who this movie was made for. Certainly not for children as this has an R rating.
Not for teenage fans of Depp that will find this too boring. Not for a mainstream adult audience that will see this as too highbrow. Not for a highbrow society as they will see this as too silly. I’m convinced that this was made just so that Johnny Depp can have fun with both Gwyneth Paltrow and Ewan McGregor. Congratulations Mr. Depp, because you just got a project that is unfunny, boring, crude yet not crude, and even manage to take down two great actors with you. I love eccentric characters whether they are the silent Mr. Bean, the bumbling Inspector Clouseau or even the wealthy treasure hunter Scrooge McDuck. Like any good story about an outcast, they are deemed stranger then the rest of the world and tend to use that to their advantage to find a gold mine or crack the latest cases. Here Depp’s titular character is handed nothing other than his mustache to play with. The storyline here is enough to drive you mad, not because it’s confusing, but it’s restless and often interrupted by a legion of weakly-written supporting roles from the likes of like Olivia Munn and Ewan McGregor. The film zig-zags around enough that any clean, linear form of a plot is lost immediately, and the fact that constant silliness is being paraded around screen from Depp’s character or an anti-climactic, buffoonish car chase shreds any kind of interest at all in the story at hand. At this point, the film has effectively given us an insufferable character lead character and a disorganized mess of a plot that can’t help but interrupt itself; once you have a film destroy its two pioneering elements, all you have is almost nothing, and so very few films have gotten by on those principles alone. That being said, whatever remains of the film isn’t that entertaining either. The principle running joke here is Mortdecai’s stache, which I figure should be interesting all by itself. Having developed it weeks before the story starts, Depp’s character spends the majority of the film protecting the hairs under his nose, essentially to his luxurious wife Johanna . Other than that, the vast majority of the jokes depend on Mortdecai’s failure to fight for himself, as he calls upon his trusty steward Jock to battle for him. It’s kind of a Clouseau/Cato dynamic, however with no place close to the same measure of appeal. In general, the funniness is low and unsurprising. The film would have worked as a cartoon. As most of the characters are unreasonable human beings, for the sake of embracing its silliness. The characters are easy enough to recognize, each of them are defined with a punchline, like Mortdecai being overly classed and overvaluing his mustache, while his servant/muscle, Jock, is bounded by his loyalty and the habit of having sex with young women, meanwhile the lead Inspector has the secret intention of stealing Mortdecai’s wife. The problem is these jokes get stale pretty quick and repeating them every ten minutes or so doesn’t help anything at all. The only trait that is worth repeating here is the witness who insults people politely, but that character left the picture too soon.
Making these characters broader doesn’t benefit anything at all, and rather makes them even more difficult to care about. The plot never really matters, it’s really all about the characters having the tendency of fooling around, but the jokes are so dated and it never really shines. This is an R-rated film, by the way, but its sense of humor feels like it appeals better for a younger crowd, that not even its sexual references can hide it. To be fair, its bright images bring things to life, perfectly presents what this movie is designed for. The talents are charming and committed to its quirks, but how their characters are written rather makes it look shameful. Johnny Depp for instance, while he enjoys being the weirdo with a ‘stache, looks like he is required to ham it up. The cheap jokes in the script is so relied on his common performance of being goofy. It’s more exhausting than amusing. Yet, the actor seems to be enjoying himself. The only actor who builds a real character here is Paul Bettany, despite that his role is meant to be a typical hard-as-nails henchman, his moments with Depp makes them a nice memorable oddball pair. Gwyneth Paltrow is just bad here. Her fake British accent and the way you wanders through the film looking bored and direction-less. Her chemistry with Depp is non existent and while this is a comedy it doesn’t help that every scene they are in is just too campy to even laugh at. Ewan McGregor thought who seems to have a total of ten minutes in the film and there is no purpose for him at all. Olivia Munn shows up three quarters of the way through for no reason and even as eye candy it doesn’t work because you’re so irritated and bored at this point that none of it matters. On the whole,’Mortdecai’ is $60 million travesty, a film which is meant to end the careers of many involved in it, especially talented writer David Koepp’s directing career! A question Mortdecai keeps asking Jock throughout the film : “Will it be alright in the end?”, I think Jock should have just answered : “Nope! Not a chance”.
Director – David Koepp
Rated – R
Run Time – 107 minutes