Saturday, January 31, 2015

Perplexing numbskullery

(Jan. 25, PDI Entertainment)
By Oliver M. Pulumbarit

“Mortdecai,” reminiscent of such sleuth comedies as the “Pink Panther” movies, is strange and unusual, in both good and iffy ways.

The film adaptation of a novel, “Mortdecai” stars Johnny Depp as English art trafficker Charlie Mortdecai. He is married to an English art connoisseur, Johanna, (Gwyneth Paltrow), who is constantly grossed out by his twirly new mustache.

That’s the tricky part. If you can’t suspend disbelief 20 minutes into the movie—sure, they’re two competent American actors pretending to be wealthy, genteel Brits, but really?—it would be difficult to swallow the rest of the film’s contrived, artificial elements.

Since, out of sheer curiosity, one sticks around anyway to see how it plays out, well, you’ll find that it perturbs as much as it disappoints.

The situations are aptly over-the-top, so the acting often comes off as exaggerated, overemphasized. Not that there are no cute, light, charming parts—the flirting between Johanna and the smitten Inspector Martland (Ewan McGregor), and the spousal banter between the Mortdecais are quite agreeable.

The stolen art angle—the characters, tracking a long-lost Goya painting, encounter interested thugs from across the globe—is actually intriguing, but rather disjointed.

Directed by David Koepp (screenwriter of “Carlito’s Way,” Spider-Man,” etc.), the film, aside from its gaggle of A-listers, has in its cast Jeff Goldblum (as a rich American eccentric), Paul Bettany (as the Mortdecais’ sexually active manservant), and Olivia Munn (as a hot nymphomaniac).

“Mortdecai’s” humor is a mix of slapstick, icky gags and adult language—unfortunately, this results in unfunny, perplexing numbskullery.

Depp dips with a seeming parody of his previous roles. Charlie is an out-of-touch misfit—which would have been a perfect match, but it’s almost like he’s just doing a mash-up of his Tim Burton characters, with a dash of Jack Sparrow.

That’s a tad unsettling. At some point, you’d give up; it’s a cartoon-y crime caper-heist flick that, while welcomely outlandish and different, baffles way more than it amuses.

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