Director: David Koepp
Starring: Johnny Depp, Gwyneth Paltrow, Ewen McGregor, Paul Bettany, Olivia Mumm, Jeff Goldblum, Paul Whitehouse.
Written by: Eric Aronson and (based on the novel “Don’t Point That Thing at Me”) Kyril Bonfiglioli
Running Time: 108 mins
Release date: 23rd January 2015
Oh dear, oh dear, oh dear! What has happened to Johnny Depp. A few years back he was making intelligent choices in his career. Regarded as a great actor and a bit of a chameleon, Depp could do no wrong. In recent months he can do no right. After the disaster that was Transcendence and his laughable cameo in Into The Woods, Depp now hits an all-time low with one of the most annoying characters to hit our screens since Chris Tucker in The Fifth Element.
Charlie Mortdecai is an art expert who is in financial difficulties. Along with his doting yet powerful wife, Johanna, they owe millions in back taxes. Yet there is a way of getting out of this trouble: helping MI5 find a stolen Goya that happens to have a secret code on the back leading to hidden Nazi gold. Along with his trusty man-servant, Jock Strap, Mortdecai has to face the Russians, Americans and a deadly Spaniard, as well as keeping the head of the investigation, Inspector Martland, away from his wife.
Based on a series of comic novels by English art dealer, actor and writer, Kyril Bonfiglioli, Mortdecai certainly has plenty of potential. Unfortunately, it is so heavy-handed in its delivery that this alleged comedy fails miserably to delivery anything. Coming across like a second-rate Inspector Clouseau, Mortdecai is a bumbling, dim-witted aristocrat who knows very little about anything apart from art, relying constantly on his bruiser of a man-servant, Jock, to get him out of every scrape.
Within the opening scene, reminiscent of the opening in Indiana Jones And The Temple Of Doom, you immediately know that Mortdecai is going to annoy and that’s the only guarantee. With a voice that is a muddled mix of Terry-Thomas and Paul Whitehouse’s The 13th Duke of Wymbourne from The Fast Show, (Whitehouse pops up as a foreign car mechanic), Depp’s dire narration makes you want to shout at the screen to shut him up.
None of the antics are funny. Gags are mistimed. Set pieces seem cumbersome and the accident-prone Mortdecai seems impossible to kill, although secretly you wish he would be. Add to that an over-plotted story-line which introduces Russian heavies interested only in causing pain to the genitalia, a nymphomaniac daughter, a fleeting appearance from Jeff Goldblum and a running gag about Mortdecai’s ridiculous moustache that is far from funny.
The cast try to do a valiant job with the material given. Ewen McGregor, as the Johanna obsessed detective, plays the straight man to Depp’s unfunny fool and doesn’t really come off looking any better than the lead. Gwyneth Paltrow, with her pitch perfect English accent manages to survive with her dignity intact and it is only Paul Bettany, as the randy yet hulking bodyguard Jock who comes out as the best thing in the whole picture, having some of the funnier moments (yes there are about two on my count).
Then there’s Depp. This seems to be a pet project of his, as he is co-producer. He obviously has a love for British comedy and a love for the books, yet he cannot rise any further than a poor man’s version of Peter Sellers. He lacks the physicality for slapstick comedy while his delivery is dull and lackluster. You do leave the cinema with a craving to watch all the Pink Panther movies.
Mortdecai is a bad misstep in Depp’s career. One that he might struggle to recover from. Totally misguided and plodding, it lacks any charm, warmth or, for that matter, real humour. It’s fine to produce a child-like comedy but not a childish comedy that even the very young wouldn’t find funny. I get the feeling that this won’t be turned into a franchise. Poor.