Johnny Depp has never been one to be defined as a comedy genius of any sort, and it’s pretty telling of that fact when the one gag he has to ride on throughout “Mortdecai” is his mustache and how it twirls. That’s basically the defining comedic element of Mortdecai. He’s painfully proud of his mustache despite the obvious disgust by his loving wife, and he takes great pride of flashing it around. He even gleams proudly when he finds himself in America packed in to an elevator with men donning mustaches and beards of their own. That’s what counts as comedy in the painfully unfunny “Mortdecai.”
I’m not sure who David Koepp’s film is intended for, but I wager it’s a vanity vehicle for people that convinced Depp he was hysterical in “Tusk.” He played one unfunny mustached character with a bad accent, so why not base an entire movie around it? Someone must have had immense confidence in Depp’s comic ability, because the film doesn’t even have the courtesy of filling the screen with comedy actors to help Depp along. Koepp’s film garners a long list of British actors, all of whom aren’t exactly known for their comic prowess. The closest we get to a comedy actor is Olivia Munn, and she barely has anything to do in the movie, to begin with. So we have Depp trying his best to be funny, alongside a huge supporting cast, all of whom barely can muster up a chuckle.
The only cast member who manages to come out of the film barely unscathed is Paul Bettany who plays Mortdecai’s loyal man servant. He’s prone to helping his master out of tight squeezes and even suffers two or three horrible injuries thanks to Mortdecai’s sheer incompetence. Beyond him, Depp stumbles around the film playing somewhere between a French yuppy, and an English aristocrat, along with occasional riffs on Dudley Moore as Arthur…? His uneven accent is the worst of his problems, as Mortdecai is genuinely unlikable, and the film strives in his utterly irritating personality, hoping to win us over mainly because Depp is portraying the character.
His self seriousness and cowardly persona really fall flat in the midst of a lot of bland one-liners and tacked on sub-plots. Folks like Ewan McGregor, and Gwyneth Paltrow have little if nothing to do in the movie beside contribute their own attempts at half assed laughs and hilarity, all the while Mortdecai finds himself thrust in to a convoluted plot involving an art caper, Russian spies, and an inexplicable and ineffective walk on by Jeff Goldblum. “Mortdecai” is a grueling, embarrassing vanity vehicle for Depp, and proof positive that he is by no means a comedic actor. I’d be fine never seeing Depp reprise this character again.