Sunday, May 17, 2015

Mortdecai (2015)

Directed by: David Koepp
Runtime: 1hr 47mins
Google Play, Amazon Instant

Johnny Depp seems content to continue his trend of hamming it up while playing over the top characters with over the top accents and an over abundance of quips. Here he's playing a character based on Kyril Bonfiglioli's book "Don't Point That Thing At Me," the first in a supposedly beloved series featuring Mortdecai, an eccentric art dealer whose methods are of questionable legality.

He's all too fond of his curly mustache that everyone else seems to hate, including his wife Johanna (Gwyneth Paltrow) who likens it to a vagina, and gags whenever she kisses him, which in turn triggers his sympathy gag reflex. If this was a funny bit, it stops being funny after the first handful of times they rehash it. And yet repeatedly beating what few jokes it has into the ground, ends up being the scripts only ambition. Furthermore, Mortdecai has a man servant/bodyguard, with an equally over the top accent, named "Jock Strapp" (Paul Betany). This should give you an indication of the level of maturity to the script and its jokes. It's the type of film where someone can survive being shot in the chest point blank with a shotgun, and hit by a car with little, to no injuries.

Mortdecai and his wife are having money troubles, and are therefore forced to take a job helping Inspector Alistair Martland (Ewan McGregor) search for a stolen painting by famous artist Francisco Goya. Martland has been in love with Johanna since college, and as a result harbors a grudge against Mortdecai, but nothing really comes of either of these feelings. Sadly this is another strike against the film, that features a star studded cast with basically nothing to do.

Mortdecai and his man servant Jock travel around and get themselves into, and out of, one fairly ridiculous situation after another. It's a Pink Pantheresque film that lacks the charm that made that series so successful. Peter Sellers' Clouseau was so earnest in his endeavors, believing so strongly in his own abilities, that he was ever unaware of the danger around him and his own comical blunders (or if he realized a blunder, he made an equally earnest effort to hide it). Depp's Mortdecai simply lacks that earnest charm, instead favoring a more immature personality. Most of the time he's too busy making his quips to help Jock, who comes along to bail him out of every situation.

While Depp's performance is still humorously quick witted at times, it, like the rest of the film, is simply excessive to point of being grating. As last year's failed sequel Dumb and Dumber To taught us, you can only make it so far on fart jokes, puke jokes, testicle jokes, and boob jokes. But this film rides them like there's no tomorrow. Also, wordplay and over the top characterizations tend to outweigh plot, leading to confusion, and frustration. Their obvious innuendos simply aren't funny, and their slapstick humor feels out of place in 2015. The whole film feels like something that might have done fairly well if it were made in the 60's or 70's.

It hurts me to say it, because I like all of these actors, but it's a bad film. However, what makes it a true failure is its rating. The only thing the film does to earn its "R" rating is swearing a few too many times. This, of course, begs the question, who is the intended audience for this film? Because the age group who are most likely to enjoy its humor won't even be allowed to see it. That surely affected the film's box office numbers, which according to IMDB are not favorable. It earned just $4,200,586 in the US, in its opening weekend, an embarrassingly low sum for a film with this cast, and an estimated $60,000,000 budget. It seems today's film going audiences, and critics alike, don't enjoy these immature camp fests. There was a time (even as late as the 90's) where a movie like Dumb and Dumber, or Austin Powers could be laughed at and enjoyed (even if not critically appreciated). That day has passed. As other films are maturing, the stock in this type of film has all but disappeared. Depp, and company are going to have to make better choices to keep from fading as well.

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