Film Review: Mortdecai

Mortdecai poster

Mortdecai’s Plot Summary:

When a conniving eccentric art dealer (Johnny Depp) faces money trouble, he’s employed by his arch rival (Ewan McGregor) of British Intelligence to track down a valued painting that contains coding which must be destroyed.

I went into this film with an open mind.  I was in a good mood. I even bought mozzarella sticks to get me in the right movie state of mind. I really wanted to give this a fair chance.  Then Johnny Depp spoke, and immediately gave birth to one of the most nauseating characters of the last five years. The best way to describe Mortdecai is to call it a horrible attempt at an Austin Powers movie, and even those don’t always work. There’s a lot wrong with this film, but we have to start with you know who, because I just can’t take it anymore.

Mortdecai pic 1

I’ve never been a big Johnny Depp fan, but I certainly recognize he’s done some amazing work early in his career. I also admit this performance wouldn’t seem so bad if Depp’s last decade plus of previous roles weren’t all eccentric cartoon characters. Mortdecai finally reached the breaking point for me. I’m done. I cannot watch this guy play these characters anymore. Mortdecai is an obnoxious unfunny moron of a human being, and the first scene wastes no time as he runs around screaming in my face at a loud volume. I guess I appreciate the film for ripping the band-aid off early. I could go on and on about how annoying Depp is as this character, but all you need to know is there’s a sequence where he strolls around the streets of Russia with his pants off, after nearly getting his balls zapped by a thug who constantly says “balls.” Anymore questions?

I want to go deeper into Johnny Depp though, because I’m really tired of the excuses. “He just needs to be in a good film.” “He just needs to be in a good film.” I’ve been hearing this for years, and while he’s been in some awful movies, I think it’s time we stop kidding ourselves – he’s just not that good anymore. While Mortdecai is an absolute train wreck of a film, I believe a better actor could have at least made this passable. Johnny Depp makes this material even worse.  It looks like he’s giving an honest effort, but it’s a complete miss. I don’t want to root for anyone to fail. Later this year, Depp will be playing Whitey Bulger in Black Mass, directed by Scott Cooper (Crazy Heart, Out of the Furnace), a guy who’s gotten fantastic performances out of his actors. I would love nothing more than to praise Depp for that role, but I’m not confident he can pull it off. I know he’s still a darling with film fans, and I hope for their sake I’m wrong. No matter how you slice it though, this guy is off his game, and has been for a long time.

As bad as Depp is though, he’s only one of the issues. I’m not letting anyone off the hook here. Paul Bettany plays Jock, Mortdecai’s muscle/man servant. Bettany brings his usual brand of no charisma whatsoever. There’s also Olivia Munn who comes in late to the picture as a key character, and she can’t act. I really have nothing else to say. Gwyneth Paltrow and Ewan McGregor are fine, but you can tell they desperately want to jump out of the screen and run away. Dammit, can’t Ewan McGregor ever catch a break! For crying out loud, every time he’s in a studio movie, it sucks. Isn’t there an X-Men character for him or something? Ewan McGregor is one of the most underutilized actors working today. Give this man a halfway decent script!

Mortdecai pic 2

The characters in general have no chemistry whatsoever, other than maybe an ounce between Depp and Bettany, but it’s far and few between. This is Generic Dialogue Writing 101. Are you kidding me with this? Aside from the lackluster performances, the movie’s biggest sin is that it’s simply not funny. There’s a cheese gag in here that might be one of the laziest jokes I’ve ever seen in a comedy. Aside from that, we get long running cracks about Mortdecai’s mustache, ball humor, and plenty of sexual shenanigans, none of which are the least bit funny. I laughed one time in this movie. Once! Depp managed to catch me off guard when he tells off a Los Angeles Hotel lobby boy. Congratulations.

David Koepp’s direction is also pretty poor.  He tries to infuse all this style into it, but when you have a movie that is completely lifeless, all that style comes off as obnoxious. Koepp certainly isn’t subtle in how he filmed Paltrow and Munn. Koepp may not have had a good script to work with, but at least he took good notes on how Michael Bay shot Megan Fox in Transformers. Geez Louise.

If for nothing else, this movie is simply boring beyond belief. Every time I periodically checked in on the plot, I felt a laser go through my brain.  It’s so poorly executed and mind-numbing. What’s even worse is you think the movie is about to end, but it goes on for another twenty-five minutes, and even the last scene is drawn out to the point of torture, mostly because of how unfunny it is. I could end this review in harsh fashion, but I’m going to cut the Mortdecai crew a slight break. Despite how awful every component is to this film, I could at least sense somewhat of an effort, and it never made me boiling mad, i.e. The Dictator. For a movie with a whacky fun premise, this film was anything but. We’ll leave it at that.

Rating: 3 out of 10 (Really Atrocious)

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Daniel Cohen is the Film Editor for Pop-Break. Aside from reviews, Daniel does a weekly box office predictions column, and also contributes monthly Top Tens and Op-Ed’s on all things film. Daniel is a graduate of Bates College with a degree in English, and also studied Screenwriting at UCLA. He can also be read on www.movieshenanigans.com. His movie crush is Jessica Rabbit. Follow him on Twitter @dcohenwriter.
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Daniel Cohen is the hard-boiled Film Editor for the Pop Break. Besides reviews, Daniel writes box office predictions, Gotham reviews and Oscar coverage. He can also be found on the Breakcast. If Daniel was sprayed by Scarecrow’s fear toxin, it would be watching Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen on a non-stop loop.