Release Date: 1/23/2015
Dir. David Koepp
Starring: Johnny Depp (Charlie Mortdecai), Gwyneth Paltrow (Johanna Mortdecai), Paul Bettany (Jock), Ewan McGreggor (Alistair Martland), Olivia Munn (Georgina Krampf), Jeff Goldblum (Krampf), Jonny Pasvolsky (Emil)
Mortdecai is a comedic thriller filled with gags and slapstick and awkward humor. While it certainly won’t end up being the best comedy of the year, Mortdecai isn’t the total dud that one may think. There are funny moments and things to enjoy throughout the film, just not enough to justify a ticket. In fact, I’d wager to see it’s a good movie to watch on a boring rainy afternoon. There’s enough going on later on, but it asks the audience to stick along with it for too long before it even gets remotely okay.
Potential Spoilers Ahead!
Full disclosure: I saw this movie for free in an advance screening.
Mortdeai opened with a very slow start. Actually, based on the opening I thought that the movie was going to be cringe worthy. I thought be a waste of time. This is largely because we were instantly opened with more of quirky Johnny Depp. It is 2015 and at this point of time we’ve suffered through 13 years of this odd caricature of Johnny Depp. Those opening moments were damn near off putting and didn’t carry the humorous effect that it was hoping for. That isn’t really the best start for a movie, especially when something is billed as a comedy.
The entire beginning of the film carried this awkward miss on the humor front. Time and time again, jokes fell flat. As we began to jetset from city to city, things began to lighten up. Soon the comedy began to catch up with the story and the laughs came in. There were a number of laugh out loud moments, but it took a good half hour before they really began to land. The humor felt a bit different than standard American humor. Instead, it felt like a mash of American and British humor. The more I thought of it, the more I began to realize that it was that blend humor that may have made the movie struggle. It failed to deliver consistently and for a comedy (even if it’s more of a comedy blend) that is the kiss of death.
One of the downsides of the opening was the attempt to grant each character a humorous introduction. Each character was given a scenario in which they were highlighted so we could see a bit of their personality and how they functioned in that world of characters. It isn’t really necessary to give characters that sort of introduction especially in a standalone film with only a few major characters. As the audience we are capable of figuring things out. The movie however, felt that these characters needed to be outlined and that slowed down the entire beginning of the movie. Did we need to see Jock getting shot out of the farmer’s house for sleeping with the farmer’s daughter as Charlie brokered a deal? No, and it wasn’t even the close to being one of the funniest Jock moments. Did Johanna’s introduction need to be so long and mundane that by the end of it I got the impression that she was a spoilsport? No, and honestly it colored her character in a way that soured her to me. It took nearly the entire movie for me to come to realize that she was a more fun character than they initially made her out to be. The problem is first impressions mean a lot and we were forced into poor drawn out first impressions that negatively impacted the film.
As for the characters they were wonderful caricatures that were positively well played out. Paul Bettany played Jock as though it was a second skin. I’d never seen him in a role quite like this and I have to say I really enjoyed it. His comedic timing was just right as the brutish man servant who had sex way too much. He may have been my favorite character in the entire film. Charlie Mortdecai was over the top, however, Depp didn’t go too over the top. Charlie was foolish and a bit silly, but never so cartoonish that he wasn’t believable as a person. That said, Charlie is no normal person, but there was a humanity to the character that could have been easily swept to the side in favor of comedy. Gwyneth Paltrow’s Johanna was a different story. The portrayal was serviceable with no outstanding flaws, yet she came off as distant and unrelateable. It seemed as though they wanted Johanna to come off as a strong female character, but that didn’t quite work. Instead she seemed more manipulative and aloof. That said, as always Paltrow is at home in comedy and her gags tended to work. Ewan McGreggor’s pining after Johanna unfortunately felt unrealized. There were seeds and actions that really made the perspective of his character work. Unfortunately, he never really came into his own. Rather he was just a pawn to help move the plot in different directions.
As for the plot itself, the story was entirely fine. It was nice that the story never got too complex, without it being a straight shooter either. There were twists and turns, nothing that was Earth-shattering, but everything contributed to a plot that flowed. Similar to the comedy in the early part of the movie, the plot near the beginning also dragged. Rather than keeping everything tight it felt a bit sprawling as it attempted to introduce us to all of the characters and the story. As a result the plot felt like it meandered. Once it hit it’s stride however, the events practically flowed into each other until we reached the end of the film.
Mortdecai isn’t a great movie. It isn’t an out right bad movie either. It’s the kind of movie that five years from now you will forget was even made unless you go trolling through Johnny Depp’s IMDb page. It’s tolerable. If you have the patience to get through the beginning, you’ll find yourself enjoying the film and laughing along like much of the theatre I was in. There will probably even be a few lines that will stick with you for a bit after seeing it. That said, I wouldn’t watch this movie in theatres. If I had paid for the movie, I’d be furious. It’s the kind of movie that you wait for HBO or Netflix to watch it.
What did you think of the movie?