Mortdecai is essentially a one-note joke. What happens if we take the quirky supporting character of a low-stakes British mystery movie and make him the lead? The result: a film that’s really not worth your time or money. A career low for Johnny Depp and a waste of the supporting cast, David Koepp’s Mortdecai is just so unfunny and feels far too long. Remember how making Jack Sparrow the lead wasn’t a good idea? Yeah, same principle here, except the lead is about 10x more annoying.
Depp plays the lead, Charlie Mortdecai, an art dealer with a silly mustache. He’s approached by an old rival, Inspector Martland (Ewan McGregor), who has a not-so-secret “thing” for Charlie’s wife, Johanna (Gwyneth Paltrow). A painting has gone missing, and since Charlie sometimes deals in stolen art, he might be able to track it down. Meanwhile, the Mortdecais are in severe debt, which … really doesn’t matter in the grand scheme of things. Aiding Charlie on his quest is his faithful manservant, Jock (Paul Bettany), about the only character who will actually get any laughs.
So, we follow Charlie as he jokes his way through a terrible mystery plot that’s occasionally broken up by chase scenes or shootouts. So much of it isn’t funny. Depp hams it up from scene one and is absolutely awful most of the time. It’s cringeworthy trying to watch him here. It’s like he finally saw a Nicolas Cage movie in which Cage was acting crazy (so any of them), and yet can’t replicate the insanity. As bad as Depp is here, he’s never watchable bad.
Almost all of the jokes you’ve seen in the trailer are … all of the jokes in the movie. The only ones you haven’t heard are the double entendres, which might be the only reason this movie managed to get an R rating, which it really didn’t deserve. But, yes, all the best content is delivered in the trailer, and is somehow funnier when taken completely out of context. At least one scene in the trailer is an alternative take from what’s shown in the movie, and it’s actually the funnier version. The movie gets a more profane, but overall less successful, take.
About the only parts that really work involve Paul Bettany’s manservant character. He’s got a couple of running gags — involving being maimed by Charlie and also managing to have lots of sex — that are relatively successful at getting laughs. If nothing else, Bettany will come away from Mortdecai unscathed. The same, however, cannot be said of Depp, who honestly might be heading down the same path as Bruce Willis. He might be one step away from direct-to-DVD roles.
Perhaps the worst part about Mortdecai is that it completely wastes a supporting cast who could be off doing better movies. Gwyneth Paltrow’s Johanna spends most of the movie trying to figure out where the painting is herself, but this doesn’t pay off anywhere near as well as it should. Ewan McGregor does so very little that you wonder why they cast Ewan McGregor. Jeff Goldblum is in this movie, and you might not even realize it because of how completely wasted he is in the role. And Olivia Munn shows up literally just be stared at.
The plot is a mess and so pointlessly stupid, but the film’s defenders will just say that’s the point in and of itself. Whatever. It could have ended significantly earlier than it did, but it had to keep going and fill up more running time. We solve the mystery, but then there’s the whole debt thing that needs solving, and it’s just — it really wasn’t necessary. It already feels so long because it’s not funny and it’s incredibly dumb.
Mortdecai is a terrible comedy that represents a low-point in the career of Johnny Depp. A couple more like this and he won’t be gracing cinema screens anymore. The quirky character act has worn thin, and that’s no better exemplified than it was here. There are two highlights in this movie. The first is Paul Bettany, who is the only one involved that comes away unscathed. The second is a five-second clip of a WWE match between Sheamus and Big Show. Mortdecai is an overlong, under-funny movie that even the most die-hard Johnny Depp fans should skip.