Director: David Koepp
Cast: Johnny Depp, Gwyneth Paltrow and Ewan McGregor
Running Time: 107 minutes
Release Date: January 23rd
It’s difficult to know where to even start critiquing a film like Mortdecai, a creation so incapable of taking any aspect of itself seriously; how can anyone else attempt to? Perseverance is required to finally come to the conclusion that, yes, Mortdecai is quite a terrible film, but not in the usual run-of-the-mill way that terrible films often come to pass, i.e. nobody making the movie was particularly bothered in making something worthwhile. No, the problem with Mortdecai is that it tries WAY TOO HARD, and what we’re left with is one of the most interesting cinematic misfires of recent times.
In case the promotional barrage hasn’t already ingrained it into your subconscious, Johnny Depp is Mortdecai, a moustachioed rogue with a penchant for Russell Brand-esque intelligent verbosity and a pinch of Pink Panther-ish sleuthing on the side. He and his wife Johanna (Gwyenth Paltrow) have fallen on financially hard times, so he takes on a job assigned by MI5 agent Martland (Ewan McGregor) to recover a stolen priceless painting. So he’s off with his faithful man-servant/bodyguard Jock Strapp (Paul Bettany) in tow, heading from London to Hong Kong to Russia to Los Angeles, crossing paths with mobsters and terrorists and slimy businessmen (Jeff Goldblum) and their nymphomaniac daughters (Olivia Munn), trying to piece together the plot as they go along.
The primary problem with the film is that it can’t seem to settle on an IQ level, so we end up with a barrage of jokes that will have different members of the audience laughing at different times. There are fart jokes and penis jokes and vomit jokes and about a quarter of all the punchlines involve Mortdecai’s moustache, but then there’ll suddenly be a very pointedly funny line about art or adultery or Americanisms that will take you unaware, forcing you to laugh out of sheer shock of the joke’s existence.
The character of Mortdecai isn’t beyond the odd sexist quip with an arched eyebrow, leading us to believe that he’s been kept in a nuclear survival bunker for the past fifty years watching Austin Powers movies as if they were documentaries, while the movie Mortdecai seems to have a different opinion of the fairer sex, as Paltrow’s Johanna seems to be the only one here with her head screwed on properly.
Depp plays the title character like a wimpish version of Jack Sparrow, all flighty runs and girly screams, and his reunion with director David Koepp proves to be even less fruitful than their previous collaboration on the undercooked Stephen King thriller Secret Window. Koepp does try to keep things interesting on a visual level, but is constantly left abandoned by the script from Eric Aronson (whose only other screenwriting credit is 2001 Lance Bass starring rom-com On The Line). We might’ve forgiven most of the comedic hokum if the plot was worth a damn, but you’ll be left asking so many questions – one character in particular has a knack of following Mortdecai everywhere, even when Mortdecai himself isn’t aware of his destinations – that you’ll just give up and hope things get funnier.
They don’t, but a certain type of numbness begins to creep in after an hour or so; all the bright colours and over-acting and story nonsense adding up to the cinematic equivalent of white noise.