1 and a half years since rumors of Johnny Depp’s retirement from the big screen, movies are still churned out featuring Depp in his characteristically eccentric lead roles. Mortdecai is no exception.
Depp sports a fresh moustache and an accent that’s supposed to sound comical. That aside, how does this anglo-centric film stack amongst its tea-drinking erect-pinky peers on the box office?
Flaccidly, unfortunately. In the battle for your blockbuster allowance, director David Koepp’s adaptation of the 1973 novel Don’t Point That Thing At Me pulls up short.
The eponymous character (Depp), an art dealer, is in financial trouble who owns a sprawling castle but with $8 million in unpaid taxes. His Lordship faces liquidation and the loss of a luxurious lifestyle. Cue Inspector Martland (Ewan McGregor) with a proposition: recover a stolen Goya painting, or face litigation from the Queen for his shady dealings.
Mortdecai manages to renegotiate the terms to benefit him, but soon finds out that he’s not the only one after the painting. Emil (Jonny Pasvolsky), an Italian with a moustache to rival Mortdecai’s, also seeks the painting for the code on its back, which is the key to a Swiss bank account filled with enough Nazi gold to fund a revolution. A Pink Panther-esque jet-setting ensues, where we see Johnny Depp and virile manservant Jock (Paul Bettany) tugged from the “terribly vulgar” Los Angeles, to Moscow and London.
The scriptwriting in Mordecai left a lot to be desired. What was expected to have clever quips and wordplay (a given with the sharply executed accents) instead delivered a smouldering heap of thinly-veiled sexual innuendos. The film hinges solely on Johnny’s club-footed bungling, Jock to save the day, and Gwyneth Paltrow’s domineering wife character to carry through the story. This isn’t helped by the plot-hole riddled, convoluted story either, which starts to disintegrate towards the conclusion.
Depp’s appearance adds little but marketing hype to the movie. His recent castings pale in comparison to latter-day performances. Whether as the silly and rambunctious Captain Jack Sparrow, or the insidious Sweeney Todd, both characters stand on their own as unique and unforgettable, which cannot be said about the likes of Charlie Mortdecai or Dr. Will Caster in Transcendence.
The screenplay didn’t impress either. None of the main characters are in ground-breaking roles, and their vapid efforts to make their characters unique in their own right left a generic, plastic taste in the mouth. They try to emulate the offbeat vibe in Wes Anderson’s films but fizzled tellingly. In fact, supplant Johanna Mortdecai into Ironman and you’d pretty much get Pepper Potts. Similarly, Martland could be Ian Rider from Stormbreaker.
Mortdecai manages to tie together a neat trifecta of cheesy unfunny dialogue, generic characters and a bad plot, making it a movie worth missing this season. In what critics have been calling a “frightfully low note” in Depp’s filmography, we can’t imagine Yoga Hosers, Depp’s upcoming film which pits teenage yoga enthusiasts against an “ancient evil presence”, faring any worse.
Release Date: 29th January 2015
Runtime: 107 minutes
Censorship rating: NC16
Genre: Action, Comedy
Director: David Koepp
Main actors: Johnny Depp, Gwyneth Paltrow, Ewan McGregor
Photos Courtesy of Mortdecai’ Facebook page and IMDB