Thursday, January 22, 2015
"Mortdecai" is a piffle, a lark, an utterly inconsequential movie that wears its insipidness like a badge of honor.
There is virtually no acting in it, only cartoonish behavior. It does not have a plot, but simply a collection of scenes ill-strung together. It bets its entire stake on the onscreen appeal of Johnny Depp, but the former World's Biggest Movie Star seems determined to continue to ostracize audiences with another in a string of precious, fey characters that are amusing only to himself.
Oh, the title character is entertaining, at least for the first few scenes. Charlie Mortdecai, the lord of something-or-other, is a down-on-his-luck British art dealer who owes the government a bundle of money. His latest schemes have proven disastrous, so he's enlisted/arm-twisted into running down a famous stolen painting by MI5.
Mortdecai dresses like the lord of the manor -- which he is, though everything in his massive country mansion is about to go up for hock -- has an elaborately pompadoured sweep of hair, very sophisticated erudition, and an appropriately snobby manner. He has also recently grown a mustache, of which he is very proud, even though it is somehow sparse and splayed at the same time, and most resembles, as his wife puts it upon seeing it for the first time, a female body part that has been grafted onto his face.
But Mortdecai's kvetching and strutting -- the man has not an ounce of courage in him -- quickly grows tiresome. This is the sort of character best used as a foil in another story, rather than the main guy. We feel as if we must have fallen asleep, and the movie took a wrong turn.
Let's put it this way: this is the sort of flick in which Mortdecai has a weirdly devoted manservant/bodyguard (Paul Bettany), who has a tendency to bed women wherever he goes, often in the space of a few minutes, whose name is "Jock Strapp." I thought Mortdecai was calling him Jacques, but it's just his swishy accent.
Gwyneth Paltrow plays Johanna, Mortdecai's long-suffering wife, who is nonplussed by both their impending penury, as well as the aforementioned face fur. Johanna is more or less the only person in the movie who doesn't behave like an over-the-top nitwit, so it's a bit unclear if she's actually mad with Mortdecai or if this is another round in a long game of twisted flirtation they like to play.
Back in college Johanna chose the exuberant Mortdecai over sweet, sensitive Martland (Ewan McGregor), and now he's a top British intelligence agent who's still carrying a huge torch for Mrs. Mortdecai. Martland forces Mortdecai to run down a rare, rumored Goya painting, which the usual array of criminals and rich jag-offs all want for themselves.
Thus we set off on an international escapade to various famed cities, illustrated by some cheap-looking CGI of planes flying hither and yon.
There are a few genuine laughs in "Mortdecai," which is based on a series of books by Kyril Bonfiglioli. But they are fleeting, and mostly we feel like we've been shoved into Johnny Depp's closet full of idiosyncratic marionettes.