Monday, January 26, 2015

johnny depp's mortdecai ...

1. Sure has bugged a lot of people.
2. Didn't do his usual huge box office.
3. Is another one of his "eccentric" characters.
4. Was dumped in the late January movie release graveyard.
5. Isn't all that bad.
6. Was inexplicably given an R rating (in the U.S.)

Which of the above statements most accurately fit the latest film offering from Johnny Depp? How about all of the above. Mortdecai, although far from the greatest movie you'd ever see, is not nearly as awful as critics and Hollywood would like you to believe, either. It's a little film, an amusing comedy, about a quirky, larcenous art dealer and his wife Johanna (Gwyneth Paltrow) and the escapades surrounding a valuable painting by Goya (and its more valuable trail that leads to a huge Swiss bank account.)

It's not hard to know why Hollywood is mad at Depp. The film didn't gross over $60 million (its reported cost) — not anywhere near that. But is that burden solely on Depp's shoulders? Why should every movie he make be a blockbuster? Anyone during development who might have read the script or heard even the vaguest description of the film should have known that this wasn't going to be another Pirates.

Charlie's latest acquisition, a moustache that would put Hercule Poirot to shame, only arouses the gag reflex in his wife Johanna
The look of the film, accented in a bright, ruby red throughout, is quite attractive, as are its talented cast, including Ewan McGregor as an MI5 investigator who has been smitten with Johanna and loathed Charlie since their college days; and Paul Bettany as Mortdecai's fiercely loyal, put-upon, and impossibly studly manservant, Jock Strapp. Although the title character is being compared to Peter Sellers and Austin Powers, Depp is clearly riffing on classic British funny man Terry-Thomas, complete with gap-teeth. The movie has the relaxed, goofy vibe of many of those caper comedies that were so popular in the '60s, and the filmmakers may have done better to have set the story in that decade rather than the present day. And what's with the R rating, which certainly didn't help get people into the theater? A little risqué humor, and the two F-words (that could have been reworded) and a PG-13 rating may have helped its box-office potential.

Mortdecai is mainly harmless fun, not the horrible disaster that will end Depp's career. Will it become the franchise that Depp so clearly wanted it to become? Not likely. It was based on Don't Point That Thing At Me, the first of three novels featuring the Charlie Mortdecai character by Kyril Bonfilglioli. But like another excoriated film starring the actor, The Tourist, it really isn't as bad as folks would have you believe. Depp should be able to appear in smaller, quirky films, too. Maybe just scale back the paychecks and the unrealistic expectations.


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