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Movie Review | Mortdecai (2015)



Crazy, kooky and ferociously goofy, Johnny Depp’s latest is a send-up to the 70’s caper movies and the genre that parodied them. Striking a similar if distant cord to “The Pink Panther”, “Mortdecai” features a bungling lead character whose charm lies in being larger than life. The situations are over the top, the characters zany to the hilt and the laughs more frequent than anticipated.

A titled art dealer living beyond his means, Lord Charlie Mortdecai (Depp) is recruited to track down a stolen painting for MI5. His money troubles at the forefront of his travails, he simultaneously juggles his disgruntled wife Johanna (Gwyneth Paltrow) and the Inspector in charge of the investigation who was Mortdecai’s college schoolmate and a romantic rival for Johanna’s affections.
The storyline feels a bit dated and for viewers who haven’t watched a steady diet of the aforementioned movies, the jokes can be too insular to achieve their desired effect. There are some running gags that flame out quickly (i.e. the mustache) and it misses several beats while attempting to stay swift in the pacing department. The key component it lacks is a foil for Mortdecai. As central as Peter Seller’s Inspector Clouseau was to “The Pink Panther” series, Herbert Lom’s Chief Inspector Dreyfus was an equally integral and unsung part in making them the lightning in the bottle film experience they were. “Mortdecai” would’ve greatly benefited from featuring a similar dynamic. Without an adversary for Mortdecai to perpetually go up against, there’s no friction to propel the movie forward.

The crucial element in the movie's arsenal is Depp, whose vivid expressions and swing for the fences vivacity are palatably infectious. He plays the movie for laughs with an abandon that is so assured, it possesses an undeniable finesse. It’s a preposterously silly character that requires Depp’s signature gift for bringing eccentric, off the wall characterizations to life. Far from the greatest script of his career, he makes the most of it nonetheless. Paul Bettany provides a lot of the film's laughs as Mortdecai's manservant and yes man, Jock; adding a satisfying crackle opposite Depp.
For those who enjoyed the trailer, liking the movie will be an easy leap as it never ventures off the advertised course. As a genre movie it’s not bold enough to be categorized as a full blown spoof. The strange way in which it strives for satire makes it hard to discern whether it’s actually trying to be one at times. Given so many of the characters and set design are retro based, it is all the more odd they chose to set in the present day. It exists in this strange dimension that mingles the past with the present, the same way the 2005 remake of “Bewitched” did. It struggles to find a distinctive direction and in its query to do so gets lost in route to being something more comically productive.

There’s no mistaking that “Mortdecai” is meant to be absurd. It doesn’t take itself seriously, allowing viewers to take an hour off from heavy thinking. It's mainly an opportunity to watch Depp do his thing and for those who delight at his louder creations, this won't be lost on them. Rating: 6/10



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