Mortdecai (2015)
Mortdecai (2015)

Genre: Action Comedy Running Time: 1 hr. 46 min.

Release Date: January 23rd, 2015 MPAA Rating: R

Director: David Koepp Actors: Johnny Depp, Gwyneth Paltrow, Paul Bettany, Ewan McGregor, Olivia Munn, Jeff Goldblum, Michael Culkin

 


 

D

espite some visual pizzazz, a few adept verbal jousts, and a jazzy soundtrack, the vast majority of “Mortdecai” just isn’t very funny. While moments of wordy dialogue betray slivers of clever semantic scrambling, the sexual innuendo tires quickly and the action sequences exhibit little creativity or suspense. Not silly enough to best “Bean,” not as edgy as “Austin Powers,” and too puerile to emulate “A Shot in the Dark,” “Mortdecai” boasts a slice of style but doesn’t offer the inspired humor to adequately honor what Inspector Clouseau and his already numerous copycats have accomplished before.

Facing insolvency for his massive government debt, self-proclaimed art dealer Charlie Mortdecai (Johnny Depp) begrudgingly opts to sell several pieces from his collection, as well as his prized Rolls Royce. But when a priceless Goya painting is discovered, and then stolen by an international terrorist, Mortdecai is commissioned by MI5 Inspector Alistair Martland (Ewan McGregor) to retrieve it. Spying an opportunity to make a hefty finder’s fee, the wily art trafficker, along with his formidable servant Jock (Paul Bettany) and his canny wife Johanna (Gwyneth Paltrow), head across the globe from London to Russia to the U.S. on a wild chase to recover the painting and stay one step ahead of the multinational gangsters who will stop at nothing to obtain it.

“Mortdecai” begins like “Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom,” minus the song-and-dance routine, before mimicking Clouseau and Kato with its bumbling detective and martial artist manservant. Evident derivations of James Bond, Matt Helm, Maxwell Smart, Derek Flint, Johnny English, Sherlock Holmes and Watson, and even W.C. Fields pop up as the film attempts to pilfer the best bits from popular action icons and comedy personas. But nearly every joke and slapstick sequence succeeds in mere moderate hilarity, with many moments stumbling about incompetently or coming off entirely unpolished. The most enjoyable scenes are borderline decent, though still just short of satisfactory.

Random asides for unnecessary backstories, cartoonish facial contortions, sporadically unconvincing accents, and an overly complex heist finale further muddle the predominant focus on humor. And the supporting players all drastically outperform the tepid lead. “Mortdecai” attempts too much, tacking on action choreography, unfitting sexual material, a playfully quirky love triangle, and jet-setting espionage, amidst barrages of fat jokes and gag reflexes. The structure, narration, flashbacks, odd details, and colorful characters feel as if they were adapted from a book series, which is in fact the origination (the imaginatively titled novels by Kyril Bonfiglioli, starting with “Don’t Point That Thing at Me”) of Mortdecai and his infatuation with cultivating the perfect mustache. “What is that infernal thing on your lip?”

The music remains groovy, even when the subject matter turns from the underbelly of smuggling, to kidnapping and terrorism, to the sidekick finding spare time for frequent dalliances and nymphomaniac exploitation. Even instances of torture stay carefree and goofy. Though the film deficiently tries to make Mortdecai a comedic sampling of every cinematic adventurer and investigator from the last century of film, it does get better as the story progresses (from a strikingly pathetic start). However, many audiences might find themselves giving up on the picture long before it really gets going.

– The Massie Twins

  • 4/10