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Overall Rating

Awesome: 0%
Worth A Look: 0%
Average: 11.11%
Pretty Bad66.67%
Total Crap: 22.22%

1 review, 3 user ratings

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by Jay Seaver

"Mystery of the stolen wit."
2 stars

It is easy to blame Johnny Depp for all that is wrong with "Mortdecai" - he's a producer, he's been front and center in the terribly unfunny coming attraction that has played before seemingly every movie over the last few months, and, to be frank, he has squandered a lot of audience goodwill on performances with more mannered quirk than genuine charm over the past decade or so. It's not all on him, though; while he doesn't help, he hurts less than you might expect. And who knows - maybe his input actually contributed to the moments when you can see the pieces of a potentially great movie.

Depp plays Lord Charlie Mortdecai, an aristocrat and art dealer (frequently in the black market) whose estate is nearly bankrupt. He's not that bright, but when an art restorer in Oxford is murdered by a terrorist (Jonny Pasvolsky), MI-5 agent Alastair Martland (Ewan McGregor), who happens to have a long-standing crush on Charlie's wife Johanna (Gwyneth Paltrow), calls him in to help. So he and his rough-and-tumble manservant Jock (Paul Bettany) are off, stumbling after a stolen painting on a caper that will take them around the world.

I don't think it is ever mentioned in the movie that Jock's full name in the original novel Don't Point That Thing at Me is "Jock Strapp", and both of those names sum up what seems to be the biggest problem with Mortdecai - it is merely off-color when it should be raunchy, and arch when it should be vulgar. It's probably also dumb when it should be smart, like Eric Aronson's script has made Mortdecai into a moron instead of a bastard because someone was afraid that a black-humored noir parody that actually feels like one wouldn't draw a crowd (or at least, not enough of one to make back whatever they're shelling out for the cast and locations). Mortdecai's dimness through much of the movie contrasts with how capable he must be at certain points, or the somewhat witty narration likely lifted from the original book.

Instead, director David Koepp has made a broad farce that's just crude enough to get an R rating but not enough to actually surprise the audience with where it would go. It's a sleek, fast-moving, good-looking movie - as in his last directorial effort (the zippy thriller Premium Rush), he doesn't so much cut from scene to scene as fly from one to another like we're getting a lift from an excited superhero, and there isn't much time wasted in each scene. He can set up a gag and let it play out in the background, and generally hits the right balance with slapstick. As much as he seems to be making the wrong movie, he seems to be doing the best with the demands of this one.

Unfortunately, he's got Johnny Depp in the middle of every scene, and while Depp's goofy haircut is on the front of his face rather than the top of his head this time, that still seems to be the extent of how hard he's trying most of the time - he does a somewhat exaggerated British accent, and a few double takes, but there's seldom any sort of personality to go with it. He does a little better toward the end, when he has to toss jokes off quickly or back away from the caricature a bit, rather than just do what seems like lazy hamming for the camera.

It doesn't help his cause that while Depp is calling attention to himself, he's surrounded by people who make it look easy. Paul Bettany, for instance, is dead on target in every scene as Jock; it's not a character that could carry his own film, but Bettany knows exactly how to make each scene he's in as funny as possible. Gwyneth Paltrow plays the smartest person in the movie, and she's witty enough that one wishes she had someone worth bantering with (Ewan McGregor is only there half the time). Jeff Goldblum shows up and makes you wonder why more people aren't casting Jeff Goldblum more often.

This makes "Mortdecai" one of those frustrating movies that isn't terrible enough to hate - it has some laughs - but is also clearly nowhere near what it could or should be. It has all the hallmarks of a movie that got revised into mediocrity by producers so timid that they never should have optioned a Wodehouse-meets-Chandler book in the first place.

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originally posted: 01/24/15 17:31:56
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User Comments

2/03/15 KingNeutron Had some really funny parts but could have been a little better - 3.5 *'s, worth a look 3 stars
1/29/15 Simplefilmreviews Wow, Depp 1 stars
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  23-Jan-2015 (R)
  DVD: 12-May-2015

  23-Jan-2015 (12A)

  DVD: 12-May-2015

Directed by
  David Koepp

Written by
  Eric Aronson
  Peter Baynham
  David Koepp

  Johnny Depp
  Gwyneth Paltrow
  Paul Bettany
  Ewan McGregor
  Olivia Munn

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