Review: Mortdecai

MORTDECAI (David Koepp). 107 minutes. Opens Friday (January 23). Rating: NLet me start by saying this: I do not believe.


MORTDECAI (David Koepp). 107 minutes. Opens Friday (January 23). Rating: N

Let me start by saying this: I do not believe that anything in Mortdecai is David Koepps fault. Hes a terrific writer and an excellent director his last two features, Ghost Town and Premium Rush, are delightful genre exercises that satisfy on almost every level.

Koepp also got a fun performance out of Johnny Depp in the 2004 Stephen King adaptation Secret Window, a fine showcase for the actors eccentricities after the first Pirates Of The Caribbean movie. Finding out that Koepp was the director of Depps new comedy, Mortdecai, got my hopes up. Maybe it wasnt going to be as awful as the posters implied.

So much for optimism.

Mortdecai is a disaster. More precisely, it is a disaster specifically because of Depp. Hes lost himself in annoying characters before, but what he does in Mortdecai is unparalleled in its self-indulgence and wrong-headedness. It is a preening and obnoxious rendering of the most annoying character imaginable.

That would be Charlie Mortdecai, an English lord who makes a living as a vaguely disreputable art dealer, and as such is tapped by Her Majestys government in the person of his old rival Alastair Martland (Ewan McGregor), who not so secretly covets Charlies wife, Johanna (Gwyneth Paltrow), to assist in the retrieval of a lost Goya painting worth untold millions. There is only one problem: Mortdecai is an imbecile, and Depp plays him precisely as such.

This movie is the answer to a conceptual question absolutely no one was asking: what if the fumbling comic-relief character in a throwaway British heist movie the one most often played by Terry-Thomas was suddenly promoted to star? (Which reminds me: I owe Mike Myers an apology for The Love Guru.)

Depp is so awful he ruins the genuinely promising elements of the picture: fun supporting turns by McGregor and Paltrow, a knockout comic performance by Paul Bettany as Charlies long-suffering manservant, a chic score by Geoff Zanelli and Mark Ronson and a really well-crafted car chase through Moscow. The one upside is that no one will blame Koepp for this monstrosity theres not much he could have done to save it, short of replacing his star with a tweed jacket on a stick.

I have seen worse films, but Im not sure Ive seen a worse performance. And thats really saying something.

normw@nowtoronto.com | @normwilner

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