To get it out of the way: This is not a great movie. And at an hour and 47 minutes, there could definitely be less of Mortdecai. But its current 8% rating on Rotten Tomatoes seems a little harsh for a film this silly and harmless and intermittently amusing; it’s like the drunk British uncle who puts his hand on your knee at a funeral, then falls over in the hedgerow. (The plot and characters are taken from a deeply crumpet-y 1973 comic novel by Kyril Bonfiglioli called Don’t Point That Thing At Me.)
Johnny Depp stars as Bonfiglioli’s Charlie Mortdecai, an amoral art-dealing fop with a posh wife, Johanna (Gwyneth Paltrow, hamming it up in jodhpurs), a loyal Cockney manservant, Jock Strapp (Paul Bettany, who deserves better) and a hefty debt in overdue back taxes.
Mortdecai’s dire financial straights impel him to take a job tracking down a legendary Goya painting that’s gone missing, and possibly fallen into the hands of international terrorists. His search leads to a series of pinballing, straining-madly-for-madcap scenes involving Nazi war crimes, Russian thugs, a shifty Los Angeles billionaire and his nymphomaniac daughter (Jeff Goldblum and Olivia Munn, respectively) and a government agent (Ewan MacGregor) who is also an old rival for the affections of Johanna.
The travel budget seems unlimited, and the setpieces look alarmingly expensive. But mostly it’s all just a showcase for Depp’s preening, prat-falling, out-of-time aristocrat; he’s less a character than a mincing bundle of mannerisms and secondhand David Niven-isms. (An inordinate number of gags revolve around his mustache, which looks like two wet baby ferrets nuzzling before a warm fire.)
The movie is too odd and randy to play for kids on an Austin Powers level, and too broad to really work as farce. But Depp, god bless him, fully commits, and finds a few genuinely funny moments amidst all the outsize mugging and mild sociopathy. Go if you’re a raging Anglophile with an afternoon to burn or you just love Depp, even at his hammiest. Otherwise, don’t point this thing at you. C-