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The t' is for terrible' Mortdecai'

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Johnny Depp vehicle utterly, painfully unfunny

In recent years, Johnny Depp has developed an odd relationship with the moviegoing public. He has increasingly gone in for roles where he was able to cloak himself in some sort of affectation, be it the way he dresses or the way he talks or the way he wears his hair (facial and otherwise). Many times, he combines more than one of those put-upon qualities.

But too often, those quirks of voice and appearance serve as little more than a crutch, a lazy way to show a movie star not being a movie star. As time passes, one wonders when the law of diminishing returns would catch up to Mr. Depp. When would it stop working? When would we stop embracing it? When would he cross that line?

It seems that with 'Mortdecai,' we might have our answer.

Depp plays the titular Charles Mortdecai, a bulging-eyed, vocal-fried aristocratic twit and part-time rogue (whatever the hell that means) who operates as a shady art dealer. He is also immensely proud of his newly-sprouted handlebar mustache (one might think that bringing up the mustache is silly, but this movie simply can't stop talking about it, which means I too must mention it). His trusty manservant (Paul Bettany, 'Transcendence') whose name, hand to God, is actually Jock Strapp serves as his valet/muscle/emotional sounding board.

Meanwhile, Mortdecai's wife Johanna (Gwyneth Paltrow, 'Iron Man 3') is thinking about leaving him. Not because of the crushing debt he has accrued and ignored, but rather because of the aforementioned mustache, because this is the kind of stupidity we're talking about with this movie.

Also in the picture is MI5 investigator Alistair Martland (Ewan McGregor, 'Son of a Gun'), who knew the Mortdecais in college and is still madly in love with Johanna. Martland enlists Mortdecai to help solve an art theft that led to a murder a theft that involves a long-lost Goya painting and account numbers for long-lost Nazi-funded Swiss bank accounts, because why not?

And so, Mortdecai stumbles and fumbles his way around the globe in an effort to try and maybe figure out where the painting is or who has it or some such nonsense frankly, it doesn't matter. Narrative cohesion is the least of this movie's concerns.

The poor quality of this movie cannot be stressed enough. It is wildly unfunny to a degree that almost feels like a deliberate provocation; it's as if the filmmakers set out to make a movie that was utterly devoid of anything resembling humor. The narrative is threadbare and riddled with clichs, peppered with 'jokes' that seem to have been written by someone in this case, screenwriter Eric Aronson who has only read about this thing humans call humor.

'Mortdecai' is based on a series of British novels from the 1970s; one can only assume that they were more entertaining than this mirthless dumpster fire.

Johnny Depp is at his mincing, mugging nadir here it's the sort of performance for which the Razzies were invented. There might well be a talented actor still in there somewhere, but he is buried beneath layers of mustache wax and spotty elocution lessons. Despite his flop-sweaty efforts, Depp simply can't bring it off. Hopefully, a viewing of the finished product will shame him into actually trying next time.

The rest of the cast seems to be in the same boat it's as if everyone involved owed Johnny Depp a favor, so they showed up. Paltrow's inherent unpleasantness is far closer to the surface than it usually is, while McGregor approaches his scenes with all the enthusiasm of reading a prepared statement in a hostage video. Poor Paul Bettany actually seems to be making an effort, but you can still see the resigned sadness in his eyes. Jeff Goldblum ('The Grand Budapest Hotel') and Olivia Munn (TV's 'The Newsroom') also show up, but they're less overtly depressing probably because they know they're only a small part of this laugh-free crapfest.

January has long been known as a sort of dumping ground for movie misfires, yet 'Mortdecai' manages somehow to lower the bar even further. It's a woeful waste of a talented cast, a 'comedy' that richly deserves the many air quotes critics are bound to bestow upon that descriptor.

[even zero popcorn is too high]


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