MORTDECAI: 1 STAR. “feeds The Quirk, but leaves the audience hungry for laughs.”
Beware The Quirk! The Killer of Careers! The fearful beast is known to inhabit Southern California and frequently seen lurking in the Hollywood Hills. Easily recognizable by its overuse of make-up, strange facial hair and flamboyant dress, The Quirk lives off schtick and frequently speaks in a funny voice, seducing its victims—usually actors—with a siren song of bad jokes and vocal tics.
Johnny Depp has been outrunning The Quirk for years, narrowly missing the beast’s bony grip. Until now. The Quirk has finally claimed Depp, leaving behind a mass of exaggerated accents, silly walks, gapped teeth and lurid lip hair known as “Mortdecai.”
Based on “The Great Mortdecai Moustache Mystery” by Kyril Bonfiglioli, the movie stars Depp in the title role as a wealthy art dealer with a taste for the finer things in life, an obsessive habit of grooming his facial hair and a nearly empty bank account. He’s pompous, bumbling—imagine a jet-setting Inspector Clouseau with an English accent and an attitude—and on a worldwide hunt for a rare Goya painting said to contain the code to a lost bank account filled with Nazi gold. Along for the ride are Mortdecai’s his trusty cockney manservant Jock Strapp (Paul Bettany), Gwyneth Paltrow as Lady Johanna Mortdecai, Ewan McGregor as an MI5 agent and Jeff Goldblum as a “thick-fingered vulgarian.”
“Mortdecai” breathes the same air as “The Pink Panther” movies, with an added nod to the 1967 “Casino Royale,” an all-star heist movie most notable for featuring both Woody Allen and Orson Welles on the same marquee, but gets lightheaded when it comes to replicating the easy-breezy tone of those films. Capers flicks of a bygone era had a swingin’, hip feel of controlled chaos not overplayed farce but Depp is pedal-to-the-metal, quirking-it-up in a display completely without charm and worse, without wit. He sets the mood for the film—daft, overly mannered, arch and unfunny—and his preening feeds The Quirk, but leaves the audience hungry for laughs.