A Film Review by Akash Singh
NOTE: SPOILERS OCCUR!!!!!!!
Mortdecai is a film that when you sit down and actively watch it, you feel like you’re dying inside and even the most talented of morticians may be inadequate to ease your suffering (yes, even after you’re dead this film will bother you). Rarely have I seen such pathetic writing thrown at the screen with “art” written all across it as if that one syllable will somehow redeem any second of this terrible catastrophe. David Edelstein of Vulture compared this movie to being ensnared by nuclear ash and he’s not wrong. The thing that utterly destroys any joy one could garner from this film is utterly destroyed by the centerpiece of the film, the titular Mortdecai. On paper, this movie should work and confidently so. A comic spoof of a caper film? Yes! Kingsman: The Secret Service made fun of the James Bond series and hilariously at that. Mortdecai attempts to be funny charming, but it is utterly without any wit to its script or its characters. When the supporting cast has the screen to themselves, they make it work. When Johnny Depp’s Mortdecai is on screen, even the largest bottle of Scotch the theater can offer won’t work its wonders.
The premise of the film frankly isn’t that bad as noted above. Provided the right execution, it had the potential to be outrageously hilarious and simultaneously poignant. The plot as it is follows Johnny Depp, who plays an art dealer called Lord Charlie Mortdecai. Lord Mortdecai, as one does in these situations, gets into a bit of a snare with a Hong Kong dealer who takes one of his beloved pieces in exchange for a debt owed in the tune of two million. The philandering Mortdecai makes his way back to his wife Johanna, who like the audience thinks that his recent mustache is repulsively repugnant, perhaps even more so than their financial circumstances. Then the completely original estranged ex-boyfriend of Johanna makes an appearance with conveniently timed information about the thief behind the theft and the entire plot(?) is set in motion. From that point on especially the film is essentially a cliff downwards, as if the entire project was built upon the assumption of self-sacrifice. Maybe the writers just lost all desire to build a decent narrative or everyone involved thought the end product was actually funny.
Outside of the audience, it’s the supporting cast who truly gets tortured here. Gwyneth Paltrow as Johanna is actually hilarious and Ewan McGregor has acute comedic timing. The film suddenly snaps into place when the two of them are sharing the screen, as if it couldn’t stomach its lead character, either. It is subsequently even more frustrating when Depp continues to dominate the screen time. Paul Bettany is downright perfect here yet suffers the same mistreatment as Paltrow and McGregor. Olivia Munn gets the shortest shaft here, a complete and utter waste of her talent resulting in one of the most horrifying writing I have ever seen for a character. She’s essentially reduced to a wasteful level of wanton woman. God forbid she actually have complexity within her character. When you have a good supporting cast, you utilize it to the best of your and their ability. Reducing them to background fodder to constantly make room your main character is remarkably poor storytelling.
Johnny Depp is the film’s biggest misfire. He is simply so insufferable in the role that if at the end of this film you feel like you might never want to watch an eccentric Johnny Depp performance ever again, that feeling is perfectly justified. His Lord Charlie Mortdecai is simply ghastly, less pleasant than nails going down a chalkboard. As Captain Jack Sparrow, Depp had found some pathos (at least in the initial installment). The Mad Hatter was more ridiculous, but he fit perfectly within that world. Hell, even Tonto in the awful, scattered The Lone Ranger was fun. But Mortdecai is inherently horrifying, each and every single one of his mannerisms throttling your throat, never letting you go no matter how hard you try to pry his overwrought, pervert fingers off of your neck. His voice, his body language, his very existence on screen is seemingly designed to act like a dementor, sucking the very soul out of you. Imagine Captain Sparrow, the Mad Hatter, and Tonto all rolled into one person who is inherently trying to copy Steve Martin’s Pink Panther. Now imagine that combination dialed up to eleven. Mortdecai in Depp’s hands this time around is less of a character and more of a caricature, screeching like a banshee throughout the hour and a half or so (is that insulting to banshees?). Spare yourself the pain and go see something else, like Paddington, a charming British family film where Depp isn’t deliberately trying to drown his career and obscure himself into oblivion.
MPAA Rating: R
Directed by: David Koepp
Produced by: Christi Dembrowski, Johnny Depp, Andrew Lazar
Screenplay by: Eric Aronson
Based On: Mortdecai by Kyril Bonfiglioli
Starring: Johnny Depp, Gwyneth Paltrow, Ewan McGregor, Olivia Munn, Paul Bettany, Jeff Goldblum
Narrated by: Johnny Depp
Music: Geoff Zanelli, Mark Ronson
Cinematography: Florian Hoffmeister
Editing: Jill Savitt
Production Company: Infinitum Nihil, Mad Chance Productions, Odd Lot Entertainment
Running Time: 106 minutes
Release Dates: January 23, 2015
Image Courtesy: Movie Pilot