Mortdecai review: But where are the laughs?

  • Jyoti Sharma Bawa, Hindustan Times, New Delhi
  • Updated: Jan 22, 2015 17:06 IST

Cast: Johnny Depp, Gwyneth Paltrow, Ewan McGregor, Olivia Munn
Director: David Koepp
Rating: 2/5

After his last few super-duds -- Transcendence, Lone Ranger -- Johnny Depp needed to come up with a good film, and fast. Is Mortdecai - about the shenanigans of a full-time eccentric trickster and part-time art dealer Lord Charles Mortdecai - that film? Nope. Or as the upper crust British setting of this film will have us say: I am afraid not.

With Mortdecai, David Koepp (Premium Rush) offers us a film which is exactly like Pink Panther, only the officer-in-charge is from the other side of the English Channel and the jokes (or the ones passing off as jokes) are more sexual.

What starts as a domestic tiff between Lord Mortdecai (Depp) and his stunning wife Joanna (Gwyneth Paltrow) over a moustache of ornate kind soon turns into a chase after a missing Goya painting that also holds a code of bank vaults with hidden Nazi gold.

Asked by MI5 agent Martland (McGregor) to help in the difficult case, Mortdecai will go hunting across the world and come up against Russian oligarchs, Chinese mafia and American art collectors. Aided and abetted by his manservant Jock Strapp (Paul Bettany), he will indulge in crossing and double crossing just about everybody.

Johanna is the one with the grey cells here though - she manipulates Martland who is attracted to her, goes snooping on her own and saves the family silver in the end. And the family silver does need saving because Mortdecai is in debt till his well-lubricated moustache.

The chemistry between Mortdecai and Jock is supposed to channel the one between British author PG Wodehouse's 'gormless' hero Bertie and his resourceful manservant Jeeves. In fact, the yarn about moustaches also appears to have been lifted from a face-off the duo has after Bertie decides to sport some facial fauna.

Unfortunately, Jock and Mortdecai are a sad shadow of that redoubtable duo. What they really remind you of is Austin Powers. The jokes here are unfunny and mostly miss their mark. Depp seems to be channeling his inner Peter Sellers but we have seen him sporting such tics and mannerisms so many times before that the performance appears charmless. And that put-on, grating-on-the-ears British accent! There was a time when Depp could leave you overwhelmed by his quirky performances (remember a certain Captain Jack Sparrow?), now the same 'strange' is becoming plain annoying and formulaic.

The rest of the cast is not in their A-game either. McGregor is so caught up being the straight-laced English gentleman that there are no layers to his character. He is one of the long list of talented actors who are headlining this film but are thwarted by its terrible, one-dimensional jokes. Jeff Goldblum is the only one who knows what a truly thin plot he is dealing with and seems to be having some fun with it. Alas, his role is blink-and-you-miss it.

Paltrow, who plays her character with straight face, is another one who is watchable.

The film, however, is grand when it comes to scale and production values. The clothes are grand enough and so are the mansions and castles where it has been filmed. It is a pity then that it also has to be so boring.

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