Johnny Depp has long been known for diving deep into his offbeat characters, but in recent years he's had a string of critical and commercial misfires. His new caper "Mortdecai," about a bumbling aristocrat on the hunt for a stolen Goya painting, doesn't look like it will change any of that.
Directed by veteran screenwriter David Koepp and co-starring Gwyneth Paltrow, "Mortdecai" is in line for a meager opening in the $10-million ballpark, and it won't get much help from critics, who are roundly panning the farce as wearying and unfunny.
In one of the few positive reviews, Gary Goldstein writes for the Los Angeles Times: "It's hard to say exactly who the audience is for the zany curio 'Mortdecai.' But those who do find their way into this supremely silly action-mystery caper are in for a few grins if not laughs thanks largely to the deft -- and daft -- performance of Johnny Depp in the title role."
Goldstein adds that if the rest of the movie "isn't quite as memorable as Depp's screwball stylings, it's a mostly zippy, well turned-out concoction. Translated: It's better than expected."
Most other critics would beg to differ. New York Magazine's David Edelstein says: "Having combed Roget's Thesaurus in vain for a suitable adjective to describe the Johnny Depp comedy 'Mortdecai,' I'm forced to say it's just … bad. The direction by David Koepp is bad, the screenplay by Eric Aronson very bad … Depp is very, very bad." That's just in the first paragraph of the review, folks.
USA Today's Brian Truitt says the movie is "a whirlwind of horrible British accents, too much gagging and not enough good gags, and weak dialogue that, while not exactly terrible, is terribly boring." He adds that "Depp overdoes every wacky aspect of his child-like character … the actor has done a lot better than this forgettable piece of bargain-basement low art."
The New York Times' Stephen Holden writes: "'Mortdecai' might as well be called 'The Johnny Depp Movie,' because its preening star, wearing an ascot and a walrus mustache that becomes a tiresome running joke, is the whole show. And what a frantically dull spectacle this vanity project is." Depp's "wizardly expertise at disappearing into a character is intact. But what if that character isn't funny and hasn't an ounce of charm?"
The Hollywood Reporter's Stephen Dalton says: "'Mortdecai' is stuffed with star names and classic farce ingredients, but its fatal flaw is an almost surreal lack of jokes. The main players spend almost every scene mugging desperately for the camera, milking every possible lowbrow sexual innuendo and clumsy slapstick mishap in novice screenwriter Eric Aronson's thin script. Ironically, these overcooked performances are often more hindrance than help when the occasional funny line arises."
And the New Jersey Star-Ledger's Stephen Whitty writes that "Mortdecai" is "nearly unbearable -- over 100 slow-moving minutes of Depp fluttering about and flashing a gap-toothed smile borrowed from Terry-Thomas. Well, Terry-Thomas has more to smile about than anyone who sits through this. And he's been dead for 25 years."