There’s a running gag in Mortdecai (a farcical comedy from David Koepp starring Johnny Depp as an eccentric art collector) where the central character repeatedly shoots his manservant by accident. Within ten minutes, you’ll wish he’d just shoot himself or the audience to spare us having to endure the agony of Depp’s performance any longer. What’s even worse is that this high-camp Carry On knock-off is Depp’s own creation and not a role hoisted on him by a studio. I’m as ready as the next man to be entertained by the sight of someone with a silly moustache getting drawn into a wandering worldwide art heist, but ten seconds into Mortdecai I wanted to put my foot through the screen and put an end to the titular character’s endless gurning.
Most good actors can make the best of a bad script, but not here: supporting cast members Gwyneth Paltrow and Ewan McGregor, as accomplished as they may be, simply look intermittently strained, ashamed or just desperate to be almost anywhere else. Even a brief appearance from Jeff Goldblum serves only to remind us how great he was in last year’s art heist caper The Grand Budapest Hotel whilst the visual style, laughable soundtrack and constant reliance on ‘eccentricity’ bring to mind Wes Anderson after an extensive lobotomy.
The script itself is abominable, a turgid mixture of toilet humour and rejected Fast Show sketches that blend about as well as Lars Von Trier and the word ‘subtlety’. But whereas Von Trier understands what subtlety actually means, Mortdecai gets busy bookending circumcision quips with embarrassing slapstick, most of which is lumped unfairly on poor Paul Bettany as Mortdecai’s manservant Jock Strapp (ha ha). This is a film so unfunny that a row of twelve year-olds remained deathly quiet throughout the testicle gags whilst the adults looked on in horror as the 12a rated disaster spouted 15-rated expletives into the silence.
Mortdecai is the perfect example of what happens when comedy dies on its feet; and believe me, that’s the only context in which you’ll hear the word ‘perfect’ anywhere in the same universe as this film. The leading performance is obnoxious, it can’t decide how rude to be and the running moustache gag is so cloyingly awful you’ll want to sprint home and shave every follicle of hair from your body.