Directed by:  David Koepp

Starring: Johnny Depp, Gwyneth Paltrow, Ewan McGregor, Olivia Munn, Paul Bettany, and Jeff Goldblum

Johnny Depp has entertained us for decades with quirky, fun characters from his roles in Cry-Baby to Edwards Scissorhands to the Pirates of the Caribbean series.  Depp thrives on playing weird, offbeat characters.  Recently, however, his choices have missed the mark.  From The Lone Ranger to Transcendence, Depp has had flop after flop.  Sadly, Mortdecai is likely to join that list of failures.

Charlie Mortdecai (Depp) is an art dealer in London.  Recently, he has hit hard financial times as his art is not selling as it has in the past, and he has more than $8 million in tax debt.  His wife Johanna (Gwyneth Paltrow) is annoyed that he has let their finances get to this point and insists on selling Mortdecai’s family heirlooms.  To compound matters, their marriage has hit a rough patch as Mortdecai has grown a horrendous mustache that makes Johanna gag every time they attempt to kiss.

As Mortdecai attempts to avoid financial ruin, he is brought into a murder mystery in the art world.  Recently, a British woman, who specialized in the restoration of paintings, was murdered, and one of the pieces of art she was working on was stolen.  MI5 agent Martland (Ewan McGregor) contacts Mortdecai because of his expertise in the art world.  Martland fears that a Russian terrorist is seeking to fund his activities by selling high priced artwork.  Mortdecai agrees to help Martland as he sees this intrigue as a solution to his financial crisis.  Along with his manservant Jock (Paul Bettany), Mortdecai uncovers that the Russians are looking for a long lost painting.  Jock and Mortdecai travel around the world tracking down the painting, getting into many adventures along the way.

Mortdecai is not as bad as I thought it would be.  Given its January release, limited advertising, and the critical murmurings on the internet, I feared there would be nothing to entertain me in the film.  Surprisingly, there are a few genuinely humorous moments in the film.  Paltrow steals scenes with her icy delivery of witty dialogue, and her interactions with Depp are the most interesting scenes in the film.  There is also a running bit about Paul Bettany’s sexual prowess that is amusing, particularly when the adventure comes to America.  However, for a comedy, a handful of moments simply is insufficient.

Based on a book series by Kyril Bonfiglioli, Mortdecai feels like an attempt at an Austin Powers type franchise or a lowbrow Wes Anderson film.  Unfortunately, Mortdecai never realizes its full potential.  On paper, this film looks like a gem.  The cast includes Depp, Paltrow, Ewan McGregor and even Jeff Goldblum.  That is a deep bench, and seems ideal for a “tongue-in-cheek” caper.  Yet, they just do not have the material to make this a great film.  Many of the jokes fall flat and the slapstick feels dated and tired.  Depp commits to the role; however, he is not that funny.  Moreover, he is not pleasant to watch.  He has a hideous mustache and Depp’s “British” teeth are distractingly horrible.  I mentally went through Depp’s film catalogue in my head, and I could not remember him ever looking worse.  Even Edward Scissorhands was endearing and sweet.   One might say that I am being superficial, but the film rises and falls on Depp’s ability to engage us and convince audiences to let go and enjoy the goofiness.  He just did not capture my attention.  Instead, I was distracted by the Samsung product placement in both Mortdecai and The Boy Next Door.  That is never a good sign.

I have been a fan of Depp’s since 21 Jump Street, and I respect his bold film choices. I like that he doesn’t take himself too seriously and will go from a billion dollar franchise to an episode of King of the Hill.  I know that he has indicated that he does not care about box office success.   However, as a fan, I would like him to care a little more about the quality of the scripts and the movies he is taking on. 

Mortdecai earns a 0.09% rating.  If you decide to see the film have a martini to make it through this one.  I would recommend watching one of the Austin Powers films or The Grand Budapest Hotel instead.