Directed by: David Koepp
Produced by: Andrew Lazar
Screenplay by: Eric Aronson
Based on: Don't Point That Thing At Me by Kyril Bonfiglioli
Starring: Johnny Depp
Narrated by: Johnny Depp
Music by: Geoff Zanelli
Cinematography by: Florian Hoffmeister
Editing by: Jill Savitt
Studio(s): Infinitum Nihil
Mad Chance Productions
Odd Lot Entertainment
Distributed by: Lionsgate
Release date(s): January 23, 2015 (United States and United Kingdom)
Running time: 106 minutes
Country: United States
Production budget: $60 million
Box-office revenue (as of publication): $47, 275, 695
Today's film up for review is Mortdecai, which alongside Black Mass makes 2015 a notable year for Johnny Depp, in that Black Mass is his most acclaimed performance for some time, while Mortdecai, for those of you who don't know, was notable for entirely different reasons. A box-office bomb and getting universally negative reviews from critics, it's a film that Christopher Rosen of The Huffington Post back in January 2015 which "seems destined to be rated as the worst film of 2015, and deservedly so." With that context out of the way, plot goes that Depp (who also produces) plays Lord Charlie Mortdecai, an unscrupulous English art dealer and swindler who, along with his wife Johanna (Gwyneth Paltrow), are in the thick of debt from their frivolous lifestyles. Meanwhile, a painting of Francisco Goya becomes part of an elaborate theft involving murder and intrigue. Inspector Alistair Martland (Ewan McGregor) is assigned to the case, and recruits Mortdecai to help him snare prime suspect Emil Strago (Jonny Pasvolsky) in exchange for 10% of the insurance money. Only problem is that Martland has been madly in love with Johanna since college, so there may or may not be problems along the way which lead to 'humorous exchanges.' Well, shall we?
I hope that 'humorous exchanges' wasn't a spoiler alert. No wait, actually I don't care. The film has one good thing in it's favour, and that is one good joke. That's it. My ratings system is well-established at this point, so I may be overly generous in giving a full '1.0' for one joke, but in fairness it is a good one. When Mortdecai and his bodyguard/friend/all-round fixer-upper Jock Strapp (Paul Bettany) arrive at a Los Angeles hotel, they are asked if they need any help with their bags, to which Mortdecai replies "No, I do not need help with my bags, I have a fucking manservant." The way in which Depp delivers it and the timing of it in relationship to the formality of the clerk's previous rhetoric gives you an idea of what the film should have been.
I would like to say that the film should have been funny, but to be frank my imagination, though vast, doesn't stretch for enough to fathom a universe in which Mortdecai is at least a halfway-acceptable comedy. I hate to sound like I'm towing some sort of line here, but the critical consensus on this film. Much of the rhetoric I'm about to use here is essentially my way of expressing sentiments which have already been aired, perhaps even with a greater degree of eloquence, because the only thing of major note about the film is how the film has inspired such a vehement negative reception, and I'll tell you why. For starters, the entire film is laid upon the foundations of an absolutely terrible script by Eric Aronson. I can partly forgive him as it is his first work to make it to the screen. From Lionsgate's production notes on the film I gather that both Depp and director David Koepp, both powerful figures in the film industry had a vested interest in the project (Depp was a fan of Kyril Bonfiglioli's novels from which this is adapted, saying that "They are irreverent and insane in a way I thought would translate well to the screen."), but it doesn't change how bad this script is. With much of the film's 'comedic dialogue' consisting of a plethora of unfunny jokes about Charlie Mortdecai's moustache (incidentally, Johnny Depp had better facial hair in Ed Wood), ensuring that very very early on the film runs out of steam. Since involved was clearly under a collective delusion, they thought they were making a caper with the quick wit of The Naked Gun, only slightly more sophisticated, but it instead comes across as a shoddy sketch cobbled together into a feature film. Indeed, the film's hodge-podge patchwork of a plot comes across merely as a design around which those involved can indulge their inner goof. It's like "alright, Johnny, we get it, you're quirky, right, yep!" Having done that schtick from the 1990s, he should really be looking to do something different as opposed to resting on his laurels and doing a stupid-sounding English Received Pronunciation accent (which thankfully, as Black Mass would indicate, he's making an active attempt to make amends). Mortdecai also has, not only for it's main character, but for everyone else involved, the barest, most blank of characterisations. As I mentioned, there are talented actors in this film, but not one of them benefits in the slightest from having been involved in this project. My emotions regarding their involvement range broadly, from pity to embarrassment, and from sympathy to outright anger. Speaking of anger, I know they're friends and all, but David Koepp is a smart guy and should really know better than to involve himself with something like this. Hey, at least he didn't write the thing! Finally, I know that it's not meant to taken seriously, but you know they are quite clearly being serious about thinking this is funny, or at least trying to convince us that it is funny because the music in the film has the whole "ha-ha-ha, this is funny, you-know-you-want-to-laugh" sing-songy bouncy sound to it, which although an old cliche, is usually an indicator these days of a bad comedy (think Bride Wars). Perhaps they were being serious about making a funny film, but sometimes I also get the impression that they made a film that was deliberately unfunny. It's just that bad. Comedy and horror are the two genres which are hardest to pull off in terms of the differing ways in which we as audiences emotionally receive them, so it's fitting that I'm faced right now with the decision as to whether or not Mortdecai is a worse film than The Human Centipede 3.
I've decided after flip-flopping between both scenarios that Mortdecai isn't worse than The Human Centipede 3. By no means though is that an endorsement for the film, I just have to look at things rationally, which is something that clearly something that everyone involved in this film didn't do unless the rationale included a fat pay-check for zero commitment. Aside from the aforementioned 'one good joke,' which to be fair is a gut-buster, Mortdecai has nothing else to offer. Nothing. As such, I've already said enough about the film, and I am deigning to say anything more about the film. Slow curtain. The end.
"I have nothing to say." - Oliver Hardy
The Thin White Dude's Prognosis - 1.0/10
The Thin White Dude's Self-Diagnosis - Rah!