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film criticism by maryann johanson | since 1997

Mortdecai movie review: stinking mishap

Mortdecai red light

This painfully unfunny spoof of teddibly British nonsense couldn’t be less amusing if it were actually calculated to be totally laugh-free.
I’m “biast” (pro): nothing

I’m “biast” (con): the trailer was dire

I have not read the source material

(what is this about? see my critic’s minifesto)

The strained desperation wafting off Mortdecai is as stinky as… Well, there’s one scene in this painfully unfunny and wildly unfocused spoof of teddibly British nonsense in which the attempt at humor revolves around whether Ewan McGregor’s (A Million Ways to Die in the West, Jack the Giant Slayer) suave MI-5 agent will eat a piece of fetid cheese he has been offered to accompany his glass of port — haha! smelly English cheese! — while Johnny Depp’s (Transcendence, The Lone Ranger) shady art dealer and dead-broke aristocrat Lord Charlie Mortdecai regales him with an anecdote about a fart; haha! flatulence? If cinema could somehow capture smells the way it captures sights and sounds, that odor, as intestinal gas and old cheese intertwine, would be the official stench of this trial of a movie, which couldn’t be less amusing if it were actually calculated to be totally laugh-free. (It looks like director David Koepp’s last film, Premium Rush, was an anomaly among his string of teddibly terrible movies.)

Mortdecai is — I suspect — meant to be somehow enchanting in a scandalously roguish sort of way, as he bumbles around being a complete upper-class-twit-of-the-year moron, but he’s an unappealing toad. (The only genuine mystery here, in a story that’s ostensibly about a missing Goya masterpiece that might lead the way to a hidden Nazi fortune, is why anyone imagined Depp’s Mortdecai would be anything other than an unappealing toad.) I imagine it’s also meant to be clever and witty how his manservant, the bruiser Jock (Paul Bettany: Transcendence, Iron Man 3), is completely irresistible to women, and how his wife, Johanna (Gwyneth Paltrow: Iron Man 3, The Avengers) does all the real sleuthing, as well as everything else that’s going to save the Mortdecai estate from the taxman. But all those slices of exhausted idiocy do is allow for Koepp to slide lots of anonymous and often half-naked women onto the screen (as they’re batting postcoital eyes at Jock) and bypass the smartest and most intriguing character the film has to offer (that would be Johanna) in favor of celebrating, as a gazillion other movies have done, the antics of a crude, stupid man who believes he is brilliant and sophisticated. And even that would be okay if there was anything like a hint of entertainment or actual, you know, social satire to be found amongst the shenanigans.

Apparently the novels these are based on have been compared to those of P.G. Wodehouse, and Mortdecai and Jock to Bertie Wooster and Jeeves. If that’s a fair parallel — while it’s not mentioned here, Jock’s surname in the books is “Strapp,” so I kind of doubt it — there is absolutely no indication of it onscreen.

See also my #WhereAreTheWomen rating of Mortdecai for its representation of girls and women.

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Mortdecai (2015)
US/Can release: Jan 23 2015
UK/Ire release: Jan 23 2015

MPAA: rated R for some language and sexual material
BBFC: rated 12A (infrequent strong language, moderate sex references, violence)

viewed at a private screening with an audience of critics

official site | IMDb
more reviews: Movie Review Query Engine | Rotten Tomatoes

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