Movie Review

Mortdecia

GENRE

Comedy, Action/Adventure

CAST

Johnny Depp as Mortdecai; Gwyneth Paltrow as Johanna; Paul Bettany as Jock; Ewan McGregor as Inspector Martland; Olivia Munn as Georgina; Jeff Goldblum as Krampf

DIRECTOR

David Koepp (Premium Rush, Ghost Town, Secret Window)

DISTRIBUTOR

Lionsgate

IN THEATERS

January 23, 2015

REVIEWER

Bob Hoose

Lord Charlie Mortdecai is broke.

Well, as broke as a lord like him can be. After all, he still has a few days to come up with the 8 or 10 million pounds he needs to pay back taxes and the like. But, surely, with a bit of footwork and a little madcap Mortdecai elbow grease he can liquidate some of his estate’s lesser artworks and come up with the needed cash.

He’s even grown a very dashing mustache to show how serious he is in his quest. All the Mortdecai men, at some point, have grown a splash of debonair facial hair as a way of putting their best face forward, so to speak. And this is Charlie’s time.

Now, the fact that his impossibly leggy wife, Johanna, gags every time she even considers kissing his newly hairy upper lip is a tad disconcerting. But he’ll work through that. Wasn’t it Margaret Thatcher who once said, “Kissing a man without a mustache is like eating an egg without salt”? So that settles it! This is a new look and a new beginning for one Charlie Mortdecai.

And, indeed, no sooner has he grown out the first stages of his suave soup-strainer than his old college friend, MI5 Inspector Martland, approaches him with a case that will surely set his financial house aright. There is a murder to solve and a missing Goya painting to find, it seems. All Charlie need do is use his numerous art dealer contacts and find a few clues to the mystery.

Granted, there’s something dark in the midst of this tomfoolery. There are Russian thugs and an international terrorist in the mix. And even rumors of some rather nasty characters seeking out Nazi gold. But pishposh, Charlie can handle himself. Besides, his manservant, Jock, is a loyal sort and good with his fists. Together they can take care of anything dangerous that may pop up along the way.

Ah, this is all starting to feel so positive. Good breeding, good looks and a good mustache. What else does one possibly need?

A cleaner telling of the story, maybe?

Positive Elements

For all their flirtations with the idea of having an affair with someone else, both Charlie and Johanna ultimately make it clear that they’re dedicated to their marriage. And both are willing to make sacrifices to maintain that relationship. Jock repeatedly puts himself in danger to fight off Charlie’s attackers.

Sexual Content

Early on it’s stated that Jock has the ability to bed nearly any attractive female he happens upon. To prove it, apparently, we’re shown a number of his conquests in various states of undress—from a woman sporting an unbuttoned shirt to a lady dressed in nothing but panties and a cleavage-boosting top. In one case we hear Jock and his girlfriend (for the night) having loud sex in the next room over. And in another we see him and another woman—who turns out to be a newly minted mother who just stepped away for a moment from her husband and child—after they’ve had sex in an airplane’s lavatory.

When Charlie and Jock fly to Los Angeles, Charlie makes note of the fleshy sensuality on display around them (in the form of scantily clad women). “I feel as if we’ve taken a wrong turn and walked onto the set of a pornographic film,” he quips. While in the States, Charlie also meets up with a wealthy American businessman named Krampf and his “nympho” daughter Georgina. Georgina soon invites him to fondle and squeeze her breasts, and later makes other seductive moves on him. Krampf interrupts them but says there will likely still be time for Charlie to have sex with his daughter before dinner. Georgina and another man openly kiss and grope each other.

Johanna and Georgina both wear formfitting and revealing outfits that the camera gladly ogles. Johanna wears skimpy nightclothes, and we see her from the back (waist up) as she slips naked into a bathtub with Charlie. After a flirtatious interaction, Charlie walks out of his wife’s bedroom sporting a very visible (clothed) erection. In a flashback, a college student walks in on Johanna and Charlie’s sexual interlude. (The pair is naked but strategically covered.) We see a number of classical nude paintings hanging on the walls. Charlie makes mention of attending Eaton University where “b-ggery” was rampant. Thinly veiled sex jokes and double entendres pepper the script, dealing with topics ranging from infidelity to lust.

Violent Content

We see a woman slump over dead after being shot in the back with an arrow. A man keels over on his desk when he’s stabbed to death. One thug nearly lops off one of Charlie’s fingers with a large knife, and others attempt to do the same to Jock. Mobsters pull down Charlie’s pants and move to attach a car battery to his boxer-clad testicles.

On a number of occasions Jock takes on several foes at a time in visceral fistfights, smashing windows, doors, tables, shelves and various other bits of scenery around them. He’s set on fire. He’s attacked by a Doberman Pinscher. He’s shot multiple times.

Various car chases result in lots of smashed sheet metal and people being thrown around. A guy is thumped in the head by a chunk of wood. A man swings a straight razor while fighting in a car. Some stumbling buffoonery results in a chain reaction explosion that blows out an entire hotel room. Somebody gets sprayed in the face with Mace.

Crude or Profane Language

Two f-words. Three or four uses each of “d–n” and “h—.” And one or two each of “b–ch,” “b–tard” “bloody” and “b-gger.” Unusual yet evocative crudities are used to describe anatomical body parts (“bismark,” “bone” and “tagger” among them). Jesus’ and God’s names are misused a couple of times apiece.

Drug and Alcohol Content

Charlie generally has a glass of something like port at hand wherever he goes—from his sitting room to the back of his limo to the bathtub. In fact, Charlie directly addresses his unquenchable need for alcohol, saying, “I’ll have you know that I am not an alcoholic, I’m a drunkard. There’s a difference.”

And Charlie’s not alone in that department. Nearly everyone else around him is ready to down a glass or two at any bar or social gathering. Even Inspector Martland is instantly eager for a glass of wine, while on duty or not.

Charlie gets injected with some kind of knockout drug. And a vial of some noxious drug is sprinkled over a banquet table, causing some to get violently ill.

Other Negative Elements

That last scene is rife with vomit-filled sight gags.

Conclusion

In the mid- to late-1970s, English author Kyril Bonfiglioli created a very popular four-part series of comic-thriller novels about an aristocratic toff of an art dealer who unravels mysteries with the aid of his manservant Jock. To some, I’m sure the prospect of transferring that quirky and dryly British world to the big screen held a lot of promise. And, of course, who else would Hollywood hotshots pick but Johnny Depp to play the lead?

Those moviegoers hoping to step into a farcical, immersive cinematic world filled with jolly good charm and wit, however, are going to be sorely disappointed. Yes, Mr. Depp certainly wraps himself up gleefully in his prancing and roguishly mustachioed narcissistic character. But, quite frankly, words such as charming, witty and, well, even moderately amusing don’t apply in the slightest to this film or its cast.

The vintage post-swinging ’60s feel that the filmmakers were shooting for never quite congeals other than in the form of a fun musical underscore. The overwrought crime-caper script is rambling and borderline boring. And besides a running mustache gag that’s worth a grin or two, the sparse and sometimes shrill humor falls much closer to Austin Powers raunch than Inspector Clouseau madcap.

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