Cert: 12A / 107 mins / Dir. David Koepp / Trailer
You see, the thing is right, it's not that I dislike Johnny Depp. There's a list (a short list, but a list) of performers who aggravate me every time they face towards a camera, but Johnny's not on it. I just can't get enthusiastic about his films as I find him to be a very lazy performer, both in terms of his tried and tested array of facial expressions, and the roles he chooses to utilise them in. I'm sure he's lovely, but he's like the guy at the party with the acoustic guitar who only knows one song*1.
Anyway, the Enforced British Zaniness of Mortdecai rumbles its way onto our screens early in 2015, because the world apparently couldn't wait for Austin Powers 4. The story (based around one of a set of popular vintage novels) has a 1960s art-heist ethos, but a present day setting complete with high-action and stylised transitions. These don't sit nearly as well together as director David Koepp would have liked, I fear, and the result is a bit of a mess (in much the same way as Gambit struggled to find the same balance). It's not that the film isn't frequently amusing, but it's trying way too hard to be Irreverent™, and I'm left with the feeling that it's doing a massive disservice to a much loved series of books.
Whether it's the moustache-jokes which wear thin after about six minutes but still keep arriving like London buses, or the work of a scriptwriter who seems to have mistaken "balls" as the punchline to a joke (twice), Mortdecai lacks the precision and restraint to be a really effective comedy. That said, even I have to admit that Paul Bettany vomiting onto a windscreen during a car-chase is a highlight. Particularly since Bettany seems to be the only actor employing any level of actual deadpan.
In fairness to the cast though, when your central characters are played by two Americans and a Scotsman, all pulling off flawless Queen's English accents, that is an achievement worth showing off. I only wish the makers had spent more time on the screenplay than they did on the casting.
Warning: Features Paul Whitehouse doing comedy cross-eyes and needlessly resurrecting the comedic corpse of Stavros. It's not unfair to say that with Whitehouse's presence and the plot revolving around theft from stately homes, the film feels a bit like an extended Aviva advert.
Oh, and is Olivia Munn a real person, then? I'd only heard of her and thought she was a fictional character like Nicki Minaj.
Over-written and over-acted, Mortdecai is a casually enjoyable enough art-heist yarn, but this modern impressionist seems to believe it's an old master.
Do you see what I did, there?
I did An Art Joke™.
That's one more than the film does.
I don't think it is, in all honesty.
Unless you're a Depp/Bettany fan, you could probably get away with renting this one.
I'm afraid not (although again, Bettany's comedy-chops are great here).
Not even close.
I didn't hear one.
Why, Mortdecai stars Ewan McGregor of course, the Prequel-era Obi-Wan Kenobi.
*1 And no, that's not me. I know loads of songs, although they do all tend to use the same chords. That's not the same thing. No, you shut up.
• ^^^ That's dry, British humour, and most likely sarcasm or facetiousness.
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