Critical Mass: Reviews shave Johnny Depp’s ‘Mortdecai’ with dull blade


Johnny Depp likes to play dress-up and try on funny accents, so Mortdecai—based on Kyril Bonfiglioli’s 1973 novel, Don’t Point That Thing at Me—just might be the actor’s idea of heaven. He plays Charlie Mortdecai, a foppish bon-vivant with a dashing archaic wardrobe and a Poirot-style mustache that is testing his marriage to the splendidly delightful (and manipulative) Johanna (Gwyneth Paltrow).


Johnny Depp gets handsy in new 'Mortdecai' trailer

Mortdecai dabbles in expensive art smuggling, but his good fortune has run out: he owes the British government millions. To get out of the hole, he reluctantly pairs up with an old classmate (Ewan McGregor) now working for MI5 to recapture a stolen Goya painting that might be the key to a stolen Nazi treasure. Paul Bettany plays Mortdecai’s loyal bodyguard and Olivia Munn plays a sex-crazed American whose best scenes will probably be on the DVD. “Mostly it’s all just a showcase for Depp’s preening, prat-falling, out-of-time aristocrat,” says EW’s Leah Greenblatt. “He’s less a character than a mincing bundle of mannerisms and secondhand David Niven-isms.”

For some, that might be enough. For other critics, though, it’s time to unload on Depp.

Leah Greenblatt (Entertainment Weekly)
The movie is too odd and randy to play for kids on an Austin Powers level, and too broad to really work as farce. But Depp, god bless him, fully commits, and finds a few genuinely funny moments amidst all the outsize mugging and mild sociopathy. Go if you’re a raging Anglophile with an afternoon to burn or you just love Depp, even at his hammiest. Otherwise, don’t point this thing at you.

David Edelstein (New York) ▼
“Depp is very, very bad. Watching his first scene … I thought he’d finally moved from emulating late (insane) Brando to late, slumming Peter Sellers and would spend the rest of movie swapping out wigs and accents. It quickly became clear that his bad, gap-toothed Terry-Thomas imitation … would be all she wrote.”

Stephen Holden (New York Times) ▼
“Mr. Depp’s wizardly expertise at disappearing into a character is intact. But what if that character isn’t funny and hasn’t an ounce of charm? … There is no wink behind the wink because Mr. Depp is so busy showing off.”

Gary Goldstein (Los Angeles Times)
“It’s hard to say exactly who the audience is for the zany curio Mortdecai. But those who do find their way into this supremely silly action-mystery caper are in for a few grins if not laughs thanks largely to the deft—and daft—performance of Johnny Depp in the title role.”

Tom Huddleston (Time Out London)
“The aristocratic in-jokes are sure to alienate U.S. audiences, while Brits will be put off by the sheer relentless fakery of it all. It’s hard to escape the suspicion that the only people sure to enjoy Mortdecai are Depp, Paltrow and perhaps Tim Burton and Madonna.”

Stephen Dalton (Hollywood Reporter) ▼
“Much of the labored comedy in Mortdecai relies on dated stereotypes unredeemed by any hint of post-modern irony. Women are insatiable nymphomaniacs who enjoy being groped, Americans vulgar materialists, Brits upper-class dimwits, and so on. These caricatures are too crude to be offensive, but also too stale and lazy to be funny.”

Guy Lodge (Variety)
“The film is only frenzied, never fizzy. Its arch, abstract character relationships keep even the most superficial emotional stakes at bay; Depp and Paltrow make a sleek screen couple, but their marital banter is too low on venom, and too heavily enshrouded in quote marks, to read as sexy.”

Stephen Whitty (Newark Star-Ledger)
“Depp is unbearable (“a fugitive from a home for alcoholic music-hall artistes,” McGregor calls him at one point, and it’s not the joke the movie thinks it is). Paltrow is nearly lifeless inside her carapace of self-regard and no one else makes much of an impression. Lucky for them, I suppose.”

Brian Truitt (USA Today)
“The one talent not wasted is Bettany, playing well against type as Mortdecai’s loyal and oversexed bodyguard, who has to constantly bear the brunt … of his boss’ mistakes. The violence is of the over-the-top Looney Tunes variety, which is fitting since Depp’s Mortdecai is a clueless mash-up of Christopher Walken and Pepé Le Pew.”

Jesse Hassenger (The AV Club)
“Like a lot of Koepp’s films, Mortdecai doesn’t transcend its genre—and it doesn’t have well-honed thrills or emotion to fall back on when it stumbles or meanders. It’s exactly the sort of oddball trifle, like Hudson Hawk, that tends to attract the ire of baffled audiences and grumpy critics.”

Liz Braun (Toronto Sun)
“A whole scene devoted to the stinkiness of a stinky cheese; erection jokes, a discussion of farts, spectacular vomiting sequences, people with their pants down; naughty language including ‘balls’ and that Paul Bettany character, who is as randy as he is invincible. What more could you want?”

Overall Metacritic rating (1-100): 26
Rotten Tomatoes: 14 percent

Rated: R
Length: 96 minutes
Starring Johnny Depp, Gwyneth Paltrow, Paul Bettany, Ewan McGregor
Directed by David Koepp
Distributor: Lionsgate