Mortdecai

Posted by Joel Copling on January 22, 2015


I have tried my darnedest to pinpoint some reason for "Mortdecai" to exist, but reader, I just cannot. This is not a film to which "reason" can be attributed, because this is not a film worthy of that basic level of respect. Its main character is not only a bumbling idiot but a racist (He impersonates a "greasy" Arab in a game of sex charades from behind a door), sexist (He only once voices actual disgust at his womanizing manservant's own escapades in the sack--or, in this case, in the airplane's lavatory with a brand-new mother), homophobic (despite the flamboyant foppishness on the part of the actor playing him), and xenophobic (He regards the city of Los Angeles, to which he travels in the course of the film's events, with loathing and its people as nothing more than the scantily-clad inhabitants a porn set).

He is named Charlie Mortdecai, and he is played by Johnny Depp in a performance of such mugging awfulness the mind boggles that director David Koepp didn't interfere. Maybe the man just simply gave up trying to control this annoying waste of 106 precious minutes that could be spent doing something--anything, really--more productive. Mortdecai is a total cad, and it's a shock that he's even slightly respected by those around him. Even the back-story involving how he and wife Johanna (Gwyneth Paltrow) first came to be together involves an act of seeming dishonesty on both of their parts. Right off the bat, screenwriter Eric Aronson (working from a novel by Kyril Bonfiglioli can't have been more than a short story) gives us a reason to detest Mortdecai.

And it's at the disadvantage of following the threadbare narrative that goes nowhere for nearly two hours before summarizing incomprehensible details that went in one ear and out the other the first time. It is nearly impossible to follow a plot that jogs in place before running in circles and finally, chest heaving with misspent effort, crawling across the finish line as if that's all it needs to do to please its audience. It has something to do with a Goya painting that has been stolen, an old rival of Mortdecai's and detective named Martland (Ewan McGregor, eliciting the largest amount of joy--a small smile that the movie has to offer with one line of dialogue near the middle of the film) who hires our main moron to help find it, and the Americans (a father/daughter pair played by Jeff Goldblum and Olivia Munn) who have it stashed away. Or something.

Maybe I gave something away there. It's impossible to tell who is conning whom and who is responsible for what. Russian operatives played by Jonny Pasvolsky, Ulrich Thomsen, and Alec Utgoff somehow figure into the proceedings, but mostly that's so the film can go off on an unbelievably drawn-out tangent involving the threatening request for Mortdecai to "open [his] balls." The only actor who might escape unscathed is Paul Bettany, who plays the partially-blinded butler (named Jock Strapp, tee hee) with relish, but even his character is unseemly and grotty. There is almost nothing worthwhile about "Mortdecai"--almost, because at least Mark Ronson and Jeff Zanelli's score moves with the grace of a fun caper that never appears onscreen.

Film Information


Johnny Depp (Mortdecai), Gwyneth Paltrow (Johanna), Paul Bettany (Jock), Ewan McGregor (Martland), Jonny Pasvolsky (Emil), Olivia Munn (Georgina), Michael Culkin (Sir Graham), Ulrich Thomsen (Romanov), Alec Utgoff (Dmitri), Rob de Groot (Vladimir), Guy Burnet (Maurice), Jeff Goldblum (Krampf).

Directed by David Koepp and written by Eric Aronson, based on the novel "Don't Point That Thing at Me" by Kyril Bonfiglioli.

Rated R (language, sexual material).

106 minutes.

Released on January 23, 2014.