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The UnPopular Opinion: Mortdecai

02.09.2017

THE UNPOPULAR OPINION is an ongoing column featuring different takes on films that either the writer HATED, but that the majority of film fans LOVED, or that the writer LOVED, but that most others LOATHED. We're hoping this column will promote constructive and geek fueled discussion. Enjoy!

****SOME SPOILERS ENSUE****

You know what is a really stupid movie? AUSTIN POWERS. Yeah, that movie is absolutely idiotic. But, because it knows it is idiotic, it doesn't have any barriers and therefore pushes the comedic envelope to a point that we have a trilogy of films featuring disturbing body hair, someone drinking feces and even jokes about eating babies. Yeah, I bet if you went back in time to 1997 and looked at what was in the zeitgeist, every catchphrase from Mike Myers film would be on the cusp of every person's lips. Reflecting back on those movies, they do not age particularly well but we still find ourselves laughing at them. David Koepp's critically lambasted film MORTDECAI is a comedy that ranks right alongside AUSTIN POWERS and even Blake Edwards' PINK PANTHER films as a Hollywood comedy that puts a bumbling idiot in the forefront and gives famous faces an opportunity to have fun.

So, why then has their been so much hate for the film that features a stellar cast including Johnny Depp, Gwyneth Paltrow, Ewan McGregor, Olivia Munn, Paul Bettany and Jeff Goldblum? Well, for starters, critics ripped the film to shreds which immediately turned off audiences to what was already going to be a niche film. Released in February, a dumping ground for all feature films, MORTDECAI dropped with a thud and never recovered. But, like all great cult films, it has since began developing a following. We will never see a MORTDECAI sequel but you could do worse than this caper comedy with Depp as his usual eccentric self in the title role as the art dealer and swindler who constantly gets himself into trouble and needs saving. Like Austin Powers, audiences are meant to be baffled as to why this bizarre man seems to be adored by women. But that is exactly what MORTDECAI is aiming for. The problem is that they just don't make movies like this anymore. While AUSTIN POWERS benefitted from word of mouth before becoming a box office hit, MORTDECAI was dead on arrival.

The UnPopular Opinion, Mortdecai, Comedy, Johnny Depp, Gwyneth paltrow, Ewan McGregor, Olivia Munn

The phrase "they don't make movies like this anymore" has become cliche in recent years but it has never been truer than with MORTDECAI. Koepp's film, based on a series of British novels that themselves have reached cult status, feels like a relic from the 1960s when movies like this could be made without preconceived notions surrounding them. By casting Johnny Depp, the film was forced to market and present itself as the type of film his fan base would see. But, like most of Depp's work, this is unlike anything he has done before. Outside of his work with Tim Burton, Johnny Depp tends to choose unique roles that appeal to him. We often accuse Depp of doing it for the money, but there was never going to be a payday off of MORTDECAI. Instead, Depp tried to have fun and was destroyed critically for it. Audiences barely turned out to see the film which adds creedence to the fact that no one has seen the film enough to give it a fair judgement. This is, despite the star power in the cast, not a film that is going to appeal to mass audiences because it is inherently stupid. Modern audiences have been conditioned to only give movies a chance if they fit into a formula unless there is a buzz surrounding them that only applies to a select few movies.

MORTDECAI is a lot like the cult favorite movie HUDSON HAWK. When that film was released, everyone was expecting to see Bruce Willis in DIE HARD mode but instead they got a completely bizarre comedy film. That film was reviled by critics and only found an audience on home video years after it was released. Today, HUDSON HAWK is a fan favorite film for many reasons but no one will say that it is a great film. But, that doesn't make it a bad movie. MORTDECAI is not a great film by any means. David Koepp has not been nearly as successful a director as a writer. Having worked with Depp previously on SECRET WINDOW, the star/director pairing led to them working on this film which genuinely feels like a group of friends getting together and just having fun. There is a looseness to MORTDECAI that is not seen in many of Depp's other recent films and proves that he can do more than just wear wigs and make-up.

The UnPopular Opinion, Mortdecai, Comedy, Johnny Depp, Gwyneth paltrow, Ewan McGregor, Olivia Munn

What the world needs is more films like MORTDECAI that allow famous actors to do more than attempt to win trophies or break box office records. Johnny Depp has been beholden to replicating the success he had with creating Jack Sparrow for PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN but lightning does not always strike twice. That does not mean that he is incapable of making movies that are enjoyable. Audiences need to stop holding the bar so damn high and enjoy what is on screen. If any other actor had been cast as the lead in this film, we would likely be talking about the film very differently. Instead of Depp, had the title role been played by Chris Hemsworth or Robert Downey Jr, we would be reviewing a much different movie than what critics would have you believe. Johnny Depp has, for better or worse, become his own worst enemy since delivering such an iconic role as Captain Jack.

What MORTDECAI was destined to be is exactly what it ended up being: a goofball comedy. Maybe it was the British accents or the fact that the character is a rich art dealer rather than a spy or an assassin. Maybe it was the lack of any discernable plot from the trailers but MORTDECAI is not the film that you would be led to believe from the marketing. Depp's mustache in the film is almost a character of it's own but the marketing team at Lionsgate decided that it needed to be the biggest aspect of their campaign for the film which was a misguided effort. Even the shot of Olivia Munn's cleavage in the trailer was not enough to get asses into seats. All of these were aspects that made me want to check out the film and give it a shot, but I also immediately recognized the various tributes and homages in the film to movies of a bygone era. MORTDECAI is a movie designed for viewers like me rather than general audiences. That was the film's biggest downfall despite quick timing, razor wit, and a fun soundtrack.

The UnPopular Opinion, Mortdecai, Comedy, Johnny Depp, Gwyneth paltrow, Ewan McGregor, Olivia Munn

I urge every one of you who has not seen MORTDECAI to give it a shot. This is the type of movie that Rotten Tomatoes can doom in a single ranking (12% positive, if you were curious). Those aggregate scores show that the vast majority of critics hated the movie but that doesn't mean you cannot be one of the minority. Since it was released, MORTDECAI has been relegated to be considered one of the worst films ever made (or at least in the current decade) and that could not be farther from the truth. Sure, this is a dumb movie but it is dumb fun. There is not a lot of investment needed for a movie like MORTDECAI but I can guarantee if you decide to give it a viewing that you will easily find yourself laughing at multiple points in the film. At the very least, it is a great opportunity to check out a movie that should be the gateway for viewers to checking out any number of classic films that MORTDECAI was inspired by.

Oh, and if you have any suggestions for The UnPopular Opinion I’m always happy to hear them. You can send along an email to alexmaidy@joblo.com, spell it out below, slap it up on my wall in Movie Fan Central, or send me a private message via Movie Fan Central. Provide me with as many movie suggestions as you like, with any reasoning you'd care to share, and if I agree then you may one day see it featured in this very column!
Source: JoBlo.com

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