"I am Lord Charlie Mortdecai, respected by all who know me, slightly."
Johnny Depp seems to be past the point of whether he can be taken seriously as a dramatic actor any more. Though he may make a comeback it will take a fearsomely good performance to do that. In the meantime can we at least give him credit as a comedic actor? Based on the strength of this film, no.
Eccentric art dealer and entrepreneur Charlie Mortdecai is trying to stay out of the way of some angry Russians, MI5 and some international terrorists as well as his demanding wife and rival art dealers. But now he embarks on a recovery mission to find a stolen painting that could lead to lost Nazi gold.
Mortdecai is a baffling example of wasted comedic. It appears to adopt the formula of eccentricity solves everything and rather than actually writing a good, subtle joke and leaving it there, the good subtle joke is amplified, projected and applied to a screen that is about ten times larger than what it should be put on. The writing is decent but the massively over-the-top visuals and extravagant set pieces make the jokes look too small in comparison to even be noticed.
The sense of humour in this film is just bizarre on so many levels, but not bizarre in a beautiful way like Terry Gilliam (director of possibly Depp’s greatest role in Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas). It appears to try and make a cartoon style of humour acceptable for live action, and it does not work at all. Instead you just have a sense of humour that is simultaneously impossible to swallow and at the same time, far too stupid to make anything seem remotely credible. The live action limits the humour that might be appealing in a cartoon and instead just makes it seem like a pointless exercise.
Not only is the humour out of proportion, it is immensely repetitive. Even if something makes you chuckle at some point (which it sometimes does) it appears so many times again in some shape or form by the end of the movie you’ve grown to hate the original joke anyway.
Mortdecai fails to find a footing for itself as well. Is it a crime comedy, is it a caper, fish-out-of-water story, ensemble piece, quirky comedy or another pay-check for Johnny Depp. It merges all of them but ends up as a bit of a mess and overall it just tiptoes between its genres, never settles but at the same time never flows like a good story should. You’re not on a ride with these characters, you’re seeing poorly timed snippets of the events around their tiresome escapades.
I don’t understand why David Keopp took up this project because with ever film he adds a new directorial technique that allows him to make an impressive feature. Take his last film, Premium Rush, on that I enjoyed a lot, there were some good uses of sound and visuals to create some thrilling chase sequences. But here there is nothing enticing or interesting behind the camera as well as in front of it.
To the film’s credit it manages to get better in its third act in which Depp must travel to LA and merge with the American culture. Here Depp’s eccentricity really shines and it produces quite an amusing fish-out-of-water scenario that works rather well. But it’s too little too late and even this segment is dragged down by repetitive jokes and stale storytelling.
It also seems amazing that a film with such a dismal plot can be so confusing. The constant barrage of useless and unfunny characters builds up to such a point that it acts as a wall to try and distract you from what is really happening, which is nothing. In the end it’s a waste of talent and writing that doesn’t let any aspect of the film earn respect of its own accord.
Like the career of its main star lately, Mortdecai is overly eccentric, repetitive and needs to be altered as soon as possible before the public catches on and stops paying attention.