Critic’s Corner: ‘Mortdecai’

Johnny Depp is known for portraying some crazy characters—like Edward Scissorhands, Willy Wonka, Captain Jack Sparrow—and his role in “Mortdecai” is no exception.

Courtesy of Lionsgate Studios.
Courtesy of Lionsgate Studios.

Director David Koepp’s new film is based on the first book in the Mortdecai Trilogy by Kyril Bonfiglioli. While the trilogy is labeled as a suspense and mystery, the movie takes the story in a more comical direction, which is slightly unexpected, as Koepp is best known for directing action and adventure movies such as “Mission: Impossible” and “Jurassic Park.”

The film follows an eccentric art dealer named Charlie Mortdecai (Johnny Depp), who is in a pool of debt. He travels around the world—London, Oxford, Moscow, Los Angeles—in an attempt to recover a stolen painting which, according to rumors, has a highly sought-after code to lost Nazi gold written on the back.

As if he didn’t have enough problems, his marriage is also on the line—not just because he is in debt, but also because he has decided to grow a mustache (and saying he’ll “trim it” is the most he promises).

Among the strongest elements of the movie was its all-star cast. Depp was, as always, comical, versatile and genuine in his performance. And I have to give a round of applause to Gwyneth Paltrow—who portrayed Mortdecai’s wife, Johanna—for convincing me that she could actually be British.

Paul Bettany, who portrayed Mortdecai’s hulking manservant, Jock, did a great job at making a character that could easily blend into the background become memorable.
There were many characters introduced in the very beginning, which made the plot and the relationship between all of them slightly hard to follow, but as the movie continued, I appreciated that every character stood out.

Johanna challenged societal gender norms, and had the upper hand between herself and Charlie in the marriage. Jock had his own quirk of sleeping with nearly every attractive woman he happened upon. Georgina (Olivia Munn), whose father was searching for the same missing painting as Mortdecai, added tension to the plot with her manipulation and conniving, despite her relatively little screen time.

By the end of the movie, Johanna and Charlie come out the other end as different people. (And don’t worry—Johanna overcomes her uncomfortable feelings towards Charlie’s mustache before the credits roll.) Disappointingly not many of the other characters seem to change. Granted, the movie was only based on the first book of the trilogy.
There are a few complaints I have with the film’s plot, though.

First, the movie starts off with Depp’s voiceovers as Mortdecai narrating scenes, and at some point in the film, they become less frequent. The inconsistency irked me.
Second, the group’s trip to Los Angeles, the most exciting of their travels, felt too hurried, which was unfortunate considering that this destination provided the movie with the most humor and character development.

Third, it is unclear as to what era the movie is set in. They do not have cell phones, but the costuming suggests it is set in modern times.

In all, the movie seemed to rely too heavily on its big-name cast members, allowing character development and plot to fall to the wayside. However, it was entertaining, it made me laugh and it kept me wondering what was going to happen next. What more could you want from a movie?

Despite the average one-star review on Rotten Tomatoes, and some faults with the plot, “Mortdecai” is a fairly enjoyable movie. It isn’t worth watching over and over again, but the comedy, suspense and mystery make the movie at least worth its
running time.

Bianca Sewake

This is Bianca Sewake's fourth and final year at The Spectator, where she is the Online Content Editor and Managing Editor. She is equal parts excited and terrified that she is graduating with a BA in Journalism this spring. Unlike her hair color, Bianca's love for ice cream will never change.


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