Charlie Mortdecai (Johnny Depp) is a roguish art dealer on the verge of bankruptcy. He gets pulled into a case of murder and a stolen masterpiece by Martland (Ewan McGregor), an MI5 agent and old acquaintance of Charlie and his wife, Johanna (Gwyneth Paltrow). Martland has always carried the torch for Johanna, so beyond needing Charlie’s help on the case, he’s constantly scheming on how to steal Johanna away. The case takes Charlie, and his manservant Jock (Paul Bettany), all over the world and gets more and more convoluted as the film goes on.
Based on the novel Don’t Point That Thing At Me by Kyril Bonfiglioli, the film just isn’t that funny. Not having read the novel, I can’t vouch for the source material, but this film almost felt like a Wes Anderson rip off. What these filmmakers don’t understand is that what makes Wes Anderson films so wonderfully whimsical is…Wes Anderson. The jokes fall flat mostly and the plot made little to no sense. It’s just Johnny Depp playing another wacky character and leaving audiences to ask, “Remember when Johnny Depp was a serious actor?” I was serious when I said that the main comedic bits—the main running gag of the film, actually—are centered on Charlie’s ridiculous mustache. It was almost as if the filmmakers found this to be utterly hilarious as they made the movie, but whatever they found humorous doesn’t translate. The best part of the film is Bettany’s loyal lothario, Jock. He gets all the best lines and is the most interesting character of all. Much like The Boy Next Door—never thought I’d make that comparison, did you?—Mortdecai fails because it plays it safe. The ending is very pat and not at all in line with the man we’ve known over the course of the film.
Johnny Depp is his typical ridiculous self in this one, but Charlie Mortdecai just isn’t that compelling a character as he’s presented here. Everyone else, save Bettany, is just kind of wasted in this. It’s a stellar cast with nothing to do. I’d be interested to read the novel to see what changes were made to make this film so dull.
If I haven’t made it clear already, you should skip Mortdecai. It’s a typical January release, dumped at the beginning of the year, because to not release it would probably cost the studio even more money. It probably could have been good, but an unfunny script that plays things too safe does not equal a successful comedy.