Mortdecai: a victim of a great cast with a faulty script

By: Sean Ray | The Duquesne Duke

Mortdecai is a film that relies heavily on its star power. Unfortunately, that is the only thing this movie does well. The performances on display are all fantastic, but sadly this does nothing for the film’s boring plot, unfunny jokes and utter lack of anything interesting.

Starring Johnny Depp, the film follows Mortdecai, a British art dealer/smuggler and aristocrat who finds himself deep in debt. With having to face all of his worldly possessions taken away, he accepts a job from Inspector Martland, played by Ewan McGregor, to try and retrieve a famous lost Goya painting that has a bank code to a Nazi fortune on the back, all before a terrorist finds it. This movie seems like it is trying to mix elements of National Treasure with The Pink Panther, only it is art instead of rare artifacts.

Really, the plot isn’t extremely important. The movie likes to meander around a lot. Here is the basic structure for 75 percent of the movie: Mortdecai gets a potential lead, follows up on it, talks to some people, bad guys show up, (insert action sequence) and nothing of value or any significant clues are found out. The movie does not seem to pick up until a scene towards the end that I thought was the climax of the movie, only to be followed by a weirdly tacked on auction scene.

Really, the star power is the reason most people are going to see this film, and this is where it delivers. Depp performs greatly as Mortdecai, a more down-to-Earth role compared to some of his other roles since starring as Jack Sparrow. Gwyneth Paltrow as Mortdecai’s wife Johanna was a delight, playing a proactive and manipulating figure that definitely rules the household, a much different experience than her damsel-in-distress Pepper Potts in the Iron Man movies. Ewan McGregor feels like the most authentically English person in the cast, despite being a Scottish native, hedoes a good job as Mortdecai’s rival.

However, the real surprising star was Paul Bettany as Jock Strapp, Mortdecai’s servant/body guard. Jock is a weird combination between a polite British butler and an American action hero a la John McClane or Jason Bourne. Basically, he is there to get Mortdecai out of any trouble he runs into, even while Mortdecai accidentally injures him all the time. Bettany’s dry delivery provided some of the funniest jokes in the film and he makes for a fairly good action star.

That was another surprise. The action is surprisingly good. It was well shot and choreographed, with none of that shaky camera nonsense so many films use that end up producing nausea. Plus, the action scenes also intermixed in some of the film’s best jokes.

Jokes are another place the film falls short. Very few of the jokes are laugh-out-loud funny, most of them being worth only a snicker … the first time around at least. The film likes reusing jokes over the course of its overly long 106 minute run time, and only a few are funny more than once.

All in all, Mortdecai is a movie that runs on the power of its stars alone and little else. If the script was stronger and gave those stars more interesting things to do, this film would be much better. As it is though, I can barely recommend seeing this film in theaters with its few funny jokes, plot that goes nowhere and overall just not being very memorable. Perhaps it is worth a watch on a lazy day off of Netflix or on DVD, but even then you can find funnier British comedies. Mortdecai does not stand out much from the crowd and is just average.
Score: 4/10