Overview: A stolen art dealer gets tangled up in the heist of a stolen Goya painting. Lionsgate; 2014; Rated R; Too fucking long.
Why I’m The Wrong Person to Review This Film: I haven’t seen a Johnny Depp movie in ten years. On purpose, I should add. I loathe him. I’ve long been tired of his soulless, uninspired cartoon iterations and the critical praise that used to shower him every time he churned one out. So I committed back then to never seeing him on any screen for longer than three minutes until I had to watch his awkward “in memoriam” montages, which I expect will look like a video catalog from a store specializing in selling cool #teen accessories and cosplay costumes to creepy middle aged men.
So Why Am I Reviewing This Film: My first indication of Mortdecai‘s existence was the painful forty-second TV spot that manages to use a hollow mustache gag twice. My second indication was when when I was followed on Twitter by a promotional account (@PartTimeRogue) which, at first, just seemed content posting pictures of the film’s stars donning awkward mustaches until it threw up this uncomfortably sexist gem:
To add to the intrigue (I mean “intrigue” in the same manner in which highway accidents are “intriguing”), Tea Lacson, one of our more well-read contributors, seems to be a fan of the book from which this Eric Aronson script was adapted (Mortdecai
by Kyril Bonfiglioli).
So Was It As Bad As Expected?: Every example of poor decision-making evident in the promotional campaign is actually pivotal to the film. The first joke about Mortdecai’s mustache occurs within one minute of runtime, and then the mustache is pointed to, I believe, in every scene thereafter before the movie squeezes in one final laughless mustache gag just before the credits roll.
And the blind, unabashed sexism? Consider Mortdecai’s protective “thug” Jacques (played by Paul Bettany, another tragedy altogether). Repeatedly, this hyper-macho character is bemusedly celebrated for his champion sexual conquests (I can recall onscreen evidence of a half dozen trysts), while, in stark hypocritical contrast, Mortdecai mistakenly assumes two passing females to be “porn stars” because they wear modest bikinis in Los Angeles and, in another scene, he makes what sounds like a passing reference to a time in which he committed statutory rape in Russia (both these remarks are packaged as punchlines). And Olivia Munn is positioned as an instrument of purely sexual function, onscreen never longer than two minutes without forcing Mortdecai to grope her, and she is disparagingly referred to as”nympho” or “tramp” more times than she’s referred to by name. This, too, is meant to be a joke.
What else? The most prevalent thread of attempted humor (besides the fucking mustache) is a distortion of British aristocrat culture and old timey caper films that Director David Koepp seems to see as satire or farce (it’s neither; it’s gross). Of course Depp lends to the film another abominable, indecipherable accent and strings words together with whiny, sickly groans that sound like a llama being poisoned. And the only time I actually laughed out loud is when an investigating Mi5 agent is introduced with a purposeful tracking shot that allows him to pivot dramatically and reveal that he is…. Ewan McGregor.
How Bad Was It All-in-All?: This movie is so bad that now no one is allowed to rebuttal film criticism with the phrase “It’s always a matter of opinion.” That will never be true again. This movie is objectively fucking awful. My impulsive reaction is to schedule an upper lip laser removal tomorrow so I never look in a mirror and think about the time I watched this. I’d bet that embarrassment over this movie is cited on legal documentation as a contributing factor in the divorce of Depp’s adopted parents, Tim Burton and Helena Bonham Carter. Mortdecai is like the 2002 flop Master of Disguise, except there’s only one disguise, and Depp has about 1/1000th of the comedic skill of late-career Dana Carvey. If the current, shitty season of Saturday Night Live ran for two hours longer, Mortdecai might be the skit that aired at 2:55 a.m. on Sunday.
Overall: For folks who skip to the end of reviews to see the conclusion because they don’t want to read (probably the same people who still self-identify as Depp fans), let me reiterate: This is the first Johnny Depp movie I’ve watched in ten years. It’s also the worst movie I’ve seen in that same time span.