Johnny Depp has lost some pizzazz over the last decade. Although many of his most famous characters are the most bizarre, ludicrous, and recognizable favorites throughout Hollywood, his most recent films like The Lone Ranger, Alice in Wonderland, and Dark Shadows (among others) have not reaffirmed his popularity among moviegoers. Depp is beginning to lose his once undeniable draw power, and with that, the films he appears in do not gain the immediate credibility they once did..
Mortdecai gave audiences hope with its luscious color palette, funky narrative, and Depp’s dashing mustache. Unfortunately, not only did Mortdecai fall flat of critical expectations, Mortdecai made egregious use of an otherwise all-star ensemble of Hollywood legends and confused audiences with a tangled and unnecessarily ridiculous story.
One of the biggest attractions to Mortdecai was the A-list actors that director David Koepp was able to pull together for such an unusual project. Based off of a 1970s comic series about the titular character, Mortdecai follows the nearly detestable Charlie Mortdecai as he travels around London and Los Angeles, tracking down a stolen Goya painting. His search is aided by Agent Martland (Ewan McGregor), a British officer in charge of the preposterous mission, and Mortdecai’s deceptively brilliant wife Johanna (Gwyneth Paltrow). Alongside Olivia Munn and the always stunning Jeff Goldblum, Mortdecai sounds as though it would be packed with larger-than-life performances from these reputable stars.
Mortdecai’s plot and aim, however, are so skewed that these actors and actresses have little room to display anything of real caliber. The only character that holds any interest is Depp’s Mortdecai and the jokes and scenarios revolving around the character just are not entertaining or substantive enough for the film to be enjoyable.
Although Depp gives Charlie Mortdecai what appears to be a full-hearted and genuine effort, a viewer can’t help but cringe every time he tweaks that over-used mustache of his. There are entirely too many jokes about Mortdecai’s mustache and general helplessness that the character does not develop in much of any way at all.
Mortdecai is often put into a comedic scenario where his wife or manservant, Jock, must come to his aid. This dynamic harkens almost too much to familiar buddy cop/moron dynamics seen in films like The Pink Panther and Sherlock Holmes. While Depp’s characters—like the everlasting Captain Jack Sparrow and the obscene reporter Raoul Duke—are helpless in their own almost adorable way, Mortdecai’s general cowardice is almost insulting to the viewer’s intellect and interest. It feels as though Lord Mortdecai had the potential to be one of Depp’s most memorable goofballs in the last decade, had it not been for lazy writing and toilet jokes.
One of the stronger highlights of the two-hour monstrosity was the art direction and the film’s overall aesthetic. Several of the character’s wardrobes, especially Depp’s, are meticulously put together and contribute to Mortdecai’s aristocratic demeanor. A few landscapes and mansion interiors are especially pleasant and colorful distractions from the off-timed, poor humor of the whole film. The intricate attention to detail given to everything but the writing of the film suggests an uneven effort by the production that is especially disheartening. The film is at times beautiful, though what is actually happening on screen is often hideous.
Depp holds a special place in cinematic hearts and minds throughout the world. Sadly, the roles that he has been taking over the last few years make it harder and harder for his fans to appreciate his work. Alongside classics like What’s Eating Gilbert Grape and Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, this most recent performance in Mortdecai appears to be one of Depp’s most disappointing showings in his career. With another Pirates of the Caribbean and the sequel to Alice and Wonderland on their way out in the next couple of years, Depp’s fans cannot help but worry about the path that his career is heading towards.
Maybe it is time for Depp to team up, once again, with his old friend Tim Burton for a few more bizarre though lucrative adventures. The two have such a wonderful chemistry that even with a few flops along the way, Burton and Depp might still have a fabulous comeback in store for one of the great actors of our time.
Featured Image Courtesy of Mad Chance Productions