“Mortdecai”, a Continuation of Johnny Depp’s Laziness


Johnny Depp in David Koepp’s “Mortdecai”.

Throughout the 1990s and early 2000s, Johnny Depp was one of the most exciting mainstream comedic actors in the business. He was a performer of vast range, as he was fun and goofy in some of movies (“Edward Scissorhands” and “Pirates of the Caribbean”) but was also more than capable of excelling in dramatic work (“Ed Wood” and “Finding Neverland”). As time went on and he became more and more famous, he began to stay far inside of his comfort zone; in most of his movies that have come out in the past five to ten years, he plays either an over-the-top caricature (who’s often pale-faced) or a quiet, dull character. “Mortdecai” is only a continuation of his laziness.


Depp stars as our protagonist known as Charlie Mortdecai, a British, Inspector Clouseau-esque (“Pink Panther”) art dealer. He’s a man of high respect, even though he constantly proves that he deserves the exact opposite. In the movie, he is in search for an expensive painting that has been stolen along with the help of an MI5 agent, Alistair Martland (Ewan McGregor). Any further details in this story are nearly impossible to summarize because of just how convoluted and incomprehensible much of it really is.


Regardless of how muddled the storyline in “Mortdecai” becomes after a while, it’s nearly impossible not to check out mentally beyond the 20-minute mark. Not once throughout its 110-minute run time does it give us a reason to care about how everything plays out and whether the painting ends up safe or not. On top of this, nearly all of its comedy is made of up tiresome facial tics and one-liners that you’ve come to expect from Depp in these roles as of lately.


As said, Mortdecai is a rather despicable protagonist. The real problem, though, is that he isn’t even a little bit amusing to watch on screen. One might think that Depp would be able to rise above the level of the material he’s stuck with and earn a few laughs just because of his delivery, but not even he was capable of doing so. In fact, he is the particular least impressive and most annoying of the cast. This is perplexing because he’s arguably the most talented of everyone when he is given a good screenplay to work with.


The supporting players, from Gwyneth Paltrow to even a brief appearance from the great Jeff Goldblum, are merely there. They don’t irritate nor do they impress, but then again, it’s hard to give a good performance in a movie that is mercilessly preventing one from giving one. As a whole, the only things that truly stands out is the musical score composed by Mark Ronson and Geoff Zanelli. It isn’t extremely memorable, but it is largely reminiscent of older, classic caper movies that it tries to spoof. In the end, there is nothing about “Mortdecai” that is entertaining, as it’s a bad, at times depressing, Depp vehicle that goes through the motions and then some.
Because it isn’t awful on a technical front, from the cinematography to the musical score, but fails to deliver on nearly everything else, “Mortdecai” gets a final rating of a D+.