[Screen It]


(2015) (Johnny Depp, Gwyneth Paltrow) (R)

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Action-Comedy: A roguish art dealer, deep in debt, travels around the world and deals with an assortment of people who are also after a stolen painting that reportedly contains a code leading to a bank account filled with Nazi gold.
Charlie Mortdecai (JOHNNY DEPP) is a roguish art dealer who sees himself as a debonair man of the world, and he indeed lives in a huge mansion with a pretty wife, Johanna (GWYNETH PALTROW), and a "man-servant" in Jock Strapp (PAUL BETTANY), who also serves as his bodyguard. The latter comes in handy when Mortdecai runs afoul of those he's trying to do business with, especially considering his habit of previously screwing over such people.

But when a Goya painting is stolen while being retouched by an artist who's murdered, MI5 official Alistair Martland (EWAN McGREGOR) realizes he must call on Mortdecai since he knows all those working all angles of the art world. And then there's the fact that revolutionary Emil Strago (JONNY PASVOLSKY) wants to get his hands on the painting to fund an upcoming uprising. Mortdecai agrees, especially since he asks for a finder's fee -- that might help offset the eight million pounds he owes the government -- and believes that solving the case will impress Johanna who hates his new mustache but likes the attention Alistair throws her way.

Mortdecai ends up contacting a rival dealer, Sir Graham (MICHAEL CULKIN), to see if he knows anything, as well as art smuggler Spinoza (PAUL WHITEHOUSE). He eventually runs afoul of Graham's client, Russian mobster Romanov (ULRICH THOMSEN), and then ends up in Los Angeles dealing with billionaire Milton Krampf (JEFF GOLDBLUM) and his reportedly nymphomaniac daughter, Georgina (OLIVIA MUNN). As Mortdecai tries to find the painting and make money from that, he also hopes to keep his wife from falling for Alistair.

OUR TAKE: 2 out of 10
Our reviewing policy for films that aren't shown in advance to critics (or are done so late the night before they open) is that we'll only provide a few paragraphs about the film's artistic merits or, more accurately, lack thereof. After all, life is too short to spend any more effort than that on a movie that even the releasing studio knows isn't any good (which is why they hid it from reviewers before its release).

You know how some kids will act in crazy ways if they know it will get them attention, smiles and maybe even some applause from adults regarding their "performance?" And that said kids will repeat said zaniness, and sometimes modify that in hopes that the adulation train will continue? And how that can grow old and irritating quite quickly as a result?

If so, you'll know exactly how it feels to watch Johnny Depp in "Mortdecai." It's been so long since the actor played a "normal" character that I can't recall what that was (even in "Transcendence" he went all weird on us), and he continues that trend here.

Picture a too confident but untalented high school theater group putting together a mash-up of "Austin Powers" and "The Thomas Crown Affair" and you'll get an approximation of this mess. It's heavy on doses of double entendres, slapstick and zaniness, but completely bereft of any laughs or true entertainment value.

Even worse, it completely wastes an otherwise talented ensemble that includes the likes of Gwyneth Paltrow, Ewan McGregor, Paul Bettany, Jeff Goldblum and more. Clearly, they must have thought they were getting involved in something that would be the next "Austin Powers." Instead, it's another installment of the "Johnny Depp Freak Show" where more attention was obviously paid to his mustache and material related to that than in turning out any sort of worthy product.

And if you don't believe my assessment, there's the fact that of the six other people who paid to see the first screening of this at my local theater, two walked out within ten minutes, another two about thirty minutes in, and the last two were apparently masochists who rode it out. Don't be them. And don't encourage any more of Depp's behavior. "Mortdecai" rates as a very generous 2 out of 10.

Reviewed January 22, 2015 / Posted January 23, 2015

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