Mortdecai Review

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By: Justin Jasso (@jjasso007)



How do the stories for a movie come about? A story can be completely imagined by the writer and developed to be a truly new piece of art. They can also be based on true events such as we find with many medical and crime dramas on television. Then there are those stories based on books or comics, already pre-established, and developed into a visual wonder for TV or film. Such is the case with the latest entry from director David Koepp, who brings a series of four comic novels to theaters with Mortdecai.

Charles Mortdecai (Johnny Depp) is known as a charming art dealer with an amazing moustache. Unfortunately, for Charles, things haven’t been going his way. And by “not going his way”, I mean he’s going bankrupt. Fortunately, a case comes his way of a stolen Goya painting, said to possible contain the location of hidden Nazi gold. This could be the break Mortdecai needs. So he agrees to help the British Mi5 and Inspector Martland (Ewan McGregor), which also gets him away from his alpha wife Johanna (Gewnyth Paltrow). Along with his man servant Jock (Paul Bettany), Mortdecai must outwit angry Russians, Mi5, his wife, a nympho seductress in Georgina Krampf (Olivia Munn) and an international terrorist. This is all in a day’s work for Mortdecai though, right?

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The original Mortdecai book was written in the 1970’s, and of British design. As we all know, what worked in the olden days may not necessarily play in today’s market. And while this isn’t always the case, as we saw the Lord of the Rings series did just fine, Mortdecai is definitely is not the Lord of the Rings. Mortdecai plays with a vibe that belongs in the 1970’s but visually takes place in the modern era. With that comes a clash of ideas and trying to make a character, developed for a different time period, fit in today’s world. Being that it is a comedy, there is more leeway given, but the slapstick style humor feels far out of place. When a man can be accidently shot point blank in the chest with a hunting rifle, flying backwards like he was shot out of a cannon, then give the line, “Nice shot sir”, how can we even remotely, given how much suspension of disbelief we allow, take this seriously? Maybe this style would have worked a few decades prior, but today this type of humor tends to be skipped over by studios as audiences have evolved. Mortdecai, however, contains just that.

After watching the film, I decided to look back at Johnny Depp’s career and try to find a time when he had a legitimate successful film at the box-office (not counting Into the Woods where he’s on screen all of five minutes). You have to go back five years to Alice in Wonderland, which grossed over $300 million, and before that you’d go back to 2006 with Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest. But, if you’re asking me, his last solid performance was probably in Sweeney Todd in 2007 (I love his Jack Sparrow but PotC: On Stranger Tides was weak sauce #SorryNotSorry). Mortdecai continues the trend of questionable roles to take and performances delivered. Depp tends to like to play characters that are a little out there, so this fits the bill, but the role is even a stretch for Depp himself, never really looking comfortable in the role. Paul Bettany is funny in his part, basically taking the blunt force traumas just about every time he’s on screen. Ewan McGregor fits his role well, finding the humor in the character, while Paltrow is more or less one note as Johanna. If you’re looking for great performances, you may want to look elsewhere.



Mortdecai is one of those films you release on a weekend without much competition. At least they are succeeding there. The humor varies from dry to extreme slapstick, with a few laughs here and there. For a comedy about a charming art dealer dealing with shenanigans all around, it really isn’t that funny and we find ourselves shaking our heads and hoping something worthwhile will come on screen. Even the search for the painting itself is lackluster, and that’s what the whole through point of the film is about. It’s more or less putting Mortdecai into unlikely situations where he can bungle it up and have to use Jock to get out of some predicament. We’re going to chalk this one up to another mis-step for Depp and hope that one of his five upcoming films, over the next two years, can save his stumbling career.

Rating: 2 out of 5 stars


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