Review: Mortdecai

3 10

PLOT: Charlie Mortdecai is a haughty - but terribly broke - British art dealer who frequently toils in the "underbelly" of the art world. When a legendary painting is stolen, the government enlists his services to help recover it, sending him on a globe-trotting adventure.

REVIEW:Just a sampling of the things MORTDECAI finds funny: mustaches; gag reflexes; vomit; the word "balls"; driving in reverse when you mean to drive forward; mustaches; boobs; British people; Russian people; involuntary bodily harm; mustaches; growling dogs; and Johnny Depp as Mordecai. That last one is most detrimental of all, but we'll get to him in a bit. These other things can, of course, be funny in the right context. It's just that MORTDECAI thinks they're inherently funny, that no effort needs to be put in beyond their very mentioning: Have a guy say "balls" a bunch of times because he's obsessed with balls, apparently, and the audience will roar in approval. Show people throwing up at a party because who doesn't find unstoppable puke hilarious? Let Mortdecai see Los Angeles for the first time and wonder - not once but twice - if he's unwittingly stepped into a porno... because he's from London, you see.

MORTDECAI is tone deaf in just about every way, and its insistence on its own charm and likability is almost sad to behold. Much of this stems from the central character, Charlie Mortdecai, who is more or less the whole show here. As played by Johnny Depp, Mortdecai is a late-60s British twit living in a modern world; the movie never goes right out and declares it, but the film is almost AUSTIN POWERS-esque in how out of tune Charlie is with the rest of society. (He calls the U.S. "the colonies"?) He's a foppish dandy with a penchant for drinking and making delicately crude overtures toward his wife (Gwyneth Paltrow) and ordering around his thuggishly loyal manservant Jock Strapp (Paul Bettany). He's supposed to be an expert in art, but the movie rarely depicts him having appreciation in anything except his mustache, sex with his wife, and humiliating anyone who isn't named Mortdecai.

The mustache. God, the mustache. Never, ever, has there been a movie so obsessed with one character's facial hair. Right off the bat, director David Koepp and screenwriter Eric Aronson introduce an endless subplot about Mortdecai's new "sproutling" on his upper lip. His wife hates it and gags whenever they kiss (which causes Mortdecai to gag in response; repeat this joke x10), but he's so infatuated with it that he's willing to risk driving her into the arms of their high school chum Martland (Ewan McGregor), who now hounds Charlie's every move as a member of the government. Everyone who meets Charlie comments on the mustache, every scene includes him twirling the mustache, every script page must have included at least one clever synonym for mustache. I've written "mustache" almost a dozen times already and that doesn't come close to how many mentions it gets in MORTDECAI. Please, make it stop.

The movie (which has been inspired by a series of Kyril Bonfiglioli comedic adventure novels from the 70s) isn't really about anything other than Mortdecai's own snotty inanity, but a plot involving a missing Goya painting and some nefarious art thieves is there to string Mortdecai and Jock from set piece to set piece where the same thing happens without fail: Mortdecai will get them into trouble because he's an incompetent fool, Jock will get them out of trouble (and become brutally wounded in the process), Mortdecai will spin off about 10 to 20 lame, antiquated witticisms, and they're off to the next thing. There are also plenty of feeble sex jokes that may have seemed oh-so-naughty decades ago, but here they're just cause for eye-rolls.

It's no secret that Johnny Depp is immersed in a soulless, ego-stroking funk right now. In MORTDECAI, he's essentially a cartoon character, constantly moaning, groaning, skipping, prancing, etc. He's not wanting for energy here, that's for sure - if anything, he's clearly a bit more inspired than he was in THE LONE RANGER or the last couple of PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN films. The actor seems to genuinely enjoy his own schtick, which of course means he lays it on even thicker as the movie goes along, but it's a pretty joyless experience for an audience to watch someone else get off on their own zany antics if they're not going to deliver anything remotely funny.

Any good come of this self-congratulatory party? Well, it's pretty to look at; very well shot by Florian Hoffmeister with terrific production design by James Merifield. The soundtrack (by Mark Ronson and Geoff Zanelli) is appropriately groovy. The supporting cast acquits itself well enough (Paul Bettany in particular), although they're basically present to - like us - watch Depp do his thing. But these minor attributes certainly can't save a movie, or a star, enamored with its own supposed wicked genius.

Source: JoBlo.com



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