DEPP’S ART-HEIST CAPER
MISSES IT’S MARK
Over the years, actor Johnny Depp has played some interesting roles that are both unique and odd in their own right. A debonair pirate (the Pirates of the Caribbean movies), a wacky mad hatter (Alice in Wonderland), and an eccentric chocolate maker (Charlie and the Chocolate Factory), a neurotic chameleon (Rango), and a deranged barber (Sweeny Todd) are just a few of his quirky roles he’s done in his film career. While creative and vividly brought to life by Depp’s performance, these peculiar portrayals have been “hit” or “miss” by critics and moviegoers with some of his movies becoming iconic, while others are box office flops. With help of Lionsgate Entertainment, Depp returns to silver screen with his first movie of 2015, a comedy satire titled Mortdecai. Does this newest motion picture shine with comedic glory or does it have one too many mindless slapsticks screws loose?
Charlie Mortdecai (Johnny Depp), part time art dealer and scam artist, is on the brink of facing bankruptcy, ending his luxurious lifestyle and frivolous escapades. Trying to keep his wealth and afloat and concerns from his wife Johanna (Gwyneth Paltrow), Charlie dubiously accepts a classified mission from MI5 Inspector Martland (Ewan McGregor), who was and still is a great admirer of Johanna. Assigned to retrieve a purloined Goya painting, of which a secret code to a safe consisting of Nazi gold is scribbled on the paintings back, Charlie, using his uses his keen skills of the art of the world and joined by his faithfully manservant Jock (Paul Bettany), hunt for clues in London, abducted and sent to Russia, and regrettably is forced to journey to America to find this precious stolen artwork. Unbeknownst to Mortdecai, Johanna sets out on her own search to find missing Goya painting, playing Marland’s passion for her to her own advantage
THE GOOD / THE BAD
Based on the novel series of comic thrillers by English author Kyril Bonfigloli, the film Mortdecai, which follows premise of the first book titled “Don’t Point That Thing at Me”, offers a cheeky satire of sorts, playing inspiration from 1960’s British spy productions and set in modern times with snooty remarks and gags from a British aristocrat as the film’s main character. Director David Koepp, who has directed more serious films like Premium Rush, Ghost Town, and Secret Window (his film in collaboration with Johnny Depp), relishes the opportunity to film such a project that is more whimsical and lighthearted. Unfortunately, while his and Depp’s intentions are there, the result is a movie that’s too busy with a simply plot, not as funny as it wants to be, and vaguely entertaining.
As it should be, the film doesn’t take itself too seriously with plenty time devoted for jokes and comic relief. The problems, however, is that the movie’s overall comedy is flat and predictable. The main gag that runs throughout the film’s duration is Mortdecai’s unique mustache that he defends against his wife Johanna, who has a great disdain for it. It’s a mild funny joke, one that produces some laughter when Johanna starts to gag after kissing Charlie, which causes him to gag as well. Other than that and a couple of scenes from the movie’s trailer and TV Spots, Mortdecai is bland in the comedy department with jokes that are either too corny, non-memorable, or, for a lack of better term, completely miss their target.
Johnny Depp makes a sincere gesture in cultivating the obnoxious and goofy character of Charlie Mortdecai. If you were to merge the character of Jack Sparrow from the Pirates of the Caribbean movies and Mike Myer’s character from the Austin Powers films, the result is Charlie Mortdecai. The actor is in his element, portraying an oddball oddity persona that works well for what the movie wants to project. It’s also commendable to see him play the character throughout the entire film and never falter from his smarmy comedic bravado. Unfortunately, it’s really nothing new that audience members haven’t already seeing from Depp’s previous works, deflating the character of Mortdecai and the actor who plays him.
In general, the rest of the cast, while terrific actors and actresses, are somewhat wasted and underutilized with a few moments to shine on-screen, but only briefly with Depp soaking up much of film running time. Paul Bettany is pretty pleasing (and funny) to see as Mortdecai’s brutish manservant Jock, a role of which I never imagined him doing and doing quite well, while Gwyneth Paltrow and Ewan McGregor hold their own with their respective characters as Johanna and Martland. Even Mortdecai’s supporting cast members like Jeff Goldblum, Olivia Munn, and Michael Culkin have little to do in the movie and are simply there to move the plot forward, becoming flat and unimportant.
As the story goes, it’s a basic narrative that has room to expand upon. This movie, however, doesn’t really delve too deep in creating a more pronounced narrative in the search for the missing Goya painting, but rather delegates its time elsewhere with its not-so-funny screwball humor. The film eventually runs out of steam at the beginning of the third act, which brings all the characters to a head and becomes tedious, over extending itself with its premise and Mortdecai’s absurdities.
Koepp’s Mortdecai has its charm, but never really goes anywhere. This slapstick comedy misadventure doesn’t know how to land its own plane, missing its mark on several key elements (story, characters, and comedy). To his credit, Johnny Depp plays the character of Charlie Mortdecai to the best of his abilities, but Depp’s performance can only go so far. Outside of that, the rest of the film falters to produce something worth of note and remembrance for its genre. I personally hardly laughed in the movie and, after viewing the film, found it disappointing. If you have acquired a taste for a movie that’s has stupid goofballery throughout, then Mortdecai will be a favorable choice. For the rest, stay clear and find your laugh-out-loud kicks elsewhere.