It’s reached a stage in the career of Johnny Depp where the bad is starting to outweigh the good. He’s almost become a victim of his own original innovation, having since been manufactured into this cliched, whimsical character actor that turns up in cliched, whimsical films. The latest of which, is David Koepp’s farce, Mortdecai.
Depp plays the eponymous protagonist – an eccentric, unorthodox millionaire with an inclination for trouble. With a debt mounting, he realises he may have to part with several of his most prized possessions to keep a roof over the head of himself and wife, Johanna (Gwyneth Paltrow). However it’s a prized possession that belongs to somebody else which happens to catch his eye – a stolen painting rumoured to have a secret code that leads to Nazi gold. Detective Martland (Ewan McGregor) wants Mortdecai, and his loyal henchman Jock (Paul Bettany) to use their inside knowledge in the world of stolen art to help track down the thief, and perhaps work off a few of those debts.
From the school of Wes Anderson, this piece is regrettably as contrived and unbearably kooky as that threatens to imply. However in films such as The Royal Tenanbaums there’s a charm; some heart beneath the surface; an emotionality that enriches the narrative – but not here. The characters are shallow, and we’re lacking any sense of creativity, with a narrative structure seen countless times before and a premise not too far removed from that of the Colin Firth-starring Gambit – another forgettable farce focusing in on valuable stolen art. There are a small handful of funny sequences however, and Depp’s admiration for his own moustache provides the majority of the humour, though, and let’s be honest, there’s a limit to how funny facial hair can be.
Mortdecai fails to compel and engross its audience but remains an undemanding, frivolous piece of cinema that will certainly pass the time. The problem is, there used to be a time when you’d bank on any film starring Johnny Depp to be more than just that.