********* 3 out of 10 *********
Director: David Koepp
Actors: Johnny Depp, Gwyneth Paltrow, Paul Bettany, Ewan McGregor
There is a whole lot of variety that we find in the world of movies. To simplify things, we can classify them into the ones we like, the ones we do not like, and the ones that make us want to strangle ourselves. Mortdecai falls in the last category. It is termed as a comedy film, but the only chuckle that will escape your lips will be on your own plight, and even for that to happen you will need to have a morbid sense of humour. How can a comedy film be so humourless? How can the search for a stolen painting be so unadventurous? How can so many men and women come together to make such a film without realising the innumerable follies in it? Mortdecai is a mess from the beginning to the end, something that is easily realised within the opening five minutes, and if you still manage to last till the end, then it is nothing but the sign of the strength of your patience.
Mortdecai is the story of Lord Charlie Mortdecai (Johnny Depp) who is an eccentric art dealer in Britain known for his shady dealings. He proudly carries his curly moustache even though it makes his wife Johanna (Gwyneth Paltrow) gag. That is only one of Lord Mortdecai’s problems, the other one being his financial situation which isn’t too rosy. When a famous painting by artist Goya is stolen, the MI5 agent Hartland (Ewan McGregor) arrives at Mortdecai’s doorstep to assist him in finding the painting which holds a deeper secret. This provides Mortdecai with an opportunity to turn around his financial woes. Mortdecai and his manservant Jock (Paul Bettany) now embark on the search of the stolen painting though unaware that the plot will only thicken with each step.
The film is adapted from the book anthology Don’t Point That Thing At Me written by Kyril Bonfiglioli, and by simply looking at the plot, I would not blame you if it got you interested in the movie. So who are culpable for the eventual mess of Mortdecai? To begin with, Eric Aronson who wrote the screenplay for the movie. Aronson has hardly any prior experience of value in Hollywood, except for sharing credits as a writer for a little known 2001 film. With Mortdecai, he has ruined an interesting plot with his messy screenplay that seems like a headless chicken running around on the farm. It failed to hold my attention even for ten minutes at a stretch, which is saying something, because I can find something of value even with the most disappointing of movies.
Director David Koepp will be the next who should be held guilty. Koepp is no newcomer to this industry, and so it is almost difficult to believe that he could not foresee the disaster that Mortdecai was turning into. Koepp’s previous movie as a director was the 2012 film Premium Rush which was no piece of art, but now feels so in comparison to Mortdecai. There were many opportunities to save this movie, for hidden somewhere in the gibberish narration was an adventurous hunt which could have been exciting. If even at the halfway mark, Koepp could have raised the tempo of the mad rush to find the stolen painting and sacrificed the rather horrendous attempts at being a funny film, Mortdecai would have saved itself from this scathing review. But the movie ends the way it begins, as a poor excuse for a comedy. The blame lies at many quarters, including the music by Mark Ronson and Geoff Zanelli, which could have been substituted with the trumpeting of elephants and still not have made a difference.
Johnny Depp, possibly at the nadir of his acting career, appears to be in cahoots with David Koepp to ensure that no moment of sanity survives in the movie. With his ridiculous moustache that isn’t laughable but gag-worthy just as his wife feels, and a horrendous accent which becomes all more the annoying as he is the narrator of the story, Johnny Depp has done something that I never thought he could — he made me fall out of love with him. I did not blame him for the past debacles like The Lone Ranger and Transcendence where I thought he put in his share of the effort in what were otherwise uninspiring and weakly made movies. But the fall of Mortdecai has a lot to do with Johnny Depp. He lacked every nuance of the great actor we remembered from the past, and in his desperation to continue to play eccentric roles, he has stopped being imaginative. His expressions and body movements in Mortdecai were frustrating to watch, and the less he came on the screen, the better it was.
When things are crumbling around you, there is no heart left to search for a shining beacon of light. But for whatever it’s worth, the supporting cast in Mortdecai was not as terrible as the movie in itself was. Paul Bettany was asked to put on a Jason Statham kind of blank face for most of the film and mix it up with a Jason Statham kind of aggression in some scenes, which he did well to his credit. Ewan McGregor was charming and more pleasant on the eye than Johnny Depp. Gwyneth Paltrow was graceful, beautiful, and radiant, and a thankful diversion in this debacle. Above all, Jeff Goldblum pops up for a very brief cameo, where he still manages to show what acting is all about, something that Depp has forgotten for the whole course of the film. Jonny Pasvolsky plays a criminal hunting Mortdecai, and Olivia Munn plays a seductress, though I hope they move on to better things, for no one will remember them from this movie.
I have seen my fair share of bad movies, the ones that made me look at my wristwatch constantly and wonder when this torture would be over. But after Mortdecai, I see some of those movies in a different light now; at least, there were a few moments of entertainment which they held. Be it the terrible depiction of a famous fictional character in I, Frankenstien…
… or the atrocious retelling of a classic fairy tale in Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters with poor CGI…
… or the utterly boring world of ghosts and cops in R.I.P.D.…
…nothing can match the disappointment I have felt with Mortdecai. Johnny Depp’s career is spiraling downwards at a rapid pace, and only he can save it. The only good thing I can say is that it can’t get any worse from here, or can it?