Release Date: 23 January 2015
Running Time: 106 min
Director: David Koepp
Starring: Johnny Depp, Gwyneth Paltrow, Ewan McGregor, Paul Bettany, Olivia Munn
“I am Mortdecai. And this, is my moustache”. These are the first onscreen lines uttered by Johnny Depp’s latest caricature, the bumbling, crooked art dealer, Charlie Mortdecai. As an opening gambit it pretty much lets you know what you’re in for. There are films based on books. There are films based on video games. And now, there is Mortdecai, a film based on a moustache. More to the point, a film based on a Hercule moustache, and the presumption that the mere presence of it on Johnny Depp’s face is pure comedy gold. If there is a joke in there, it gets old pretty darn quickly.
When not spending a baffling amount of time pointing out the absurdity of Depp’s facial hair, there’s a plot about a murder and a missing painting, leading to some half-hearted espionage; complete with Russian gangsters, a rival American art dealer, and a woefully underwritten femme fatale. It’s all terribly stale, director David Koepp is clearly trying to deliver a timeless piece of action comedy in the vein of The Pink Panther or Austin Powers. What he produces instead is a pretty comical attempt at action set-pieces, fleshed out with Depp doing a silly voice that sounds like he’s eating a bowl of boiling hot rice pudding. It’s remarkable how low rent it feels considering the star power attached, and just when you’re thinking the whole affair feels like a feature length Fast Show sketch, Paul Whitehouse appears to hammer the point home.
While there is clearly a lot wrong here, there is nothing offensively awful on display. You have to admire any film that has Paul Bettany delivering flaming punches to bad guys after his arms are accidentally set ablaze. That aside, it’s funniest moments occur when it doesn’t try so hard. Sadly, even these moments produce little more than a chuckle. With a touch of classic farce and a whole heap more subtlety, Mortdecai could have been fun. Lionsgate have hinted that this may be a new franchise for Depp to sink his teeth into. If there are to be any more adventures of this plummy art dealer, they’re going to have to bring a lot more to the table than a tale of one man and his moustache.