I say, old bean, isn't it frightfully late in the day for a spot of Mortdecai?
After all, the novels this new film is based on were written back in the 70's, the whole character of Charlie Mortdecai feels like an Inspector Clouseau-esque creation from the mid-60's and, regretfully, the great Terry Thomas is no longer with us.
Where was Mortdecai when he would have made sense?
Oh well, at least we have Johnny Depp having tons of fun with yet another cartoonish British accent and we have some form of Mortdecai movie, even if the whole retro feel I was hoping for is lost due to a current setting and some cruder jokes. By ignoring the obvious visual style appropriate to this type of film, this means it moves at a faster, more modern audience-friendly pace but it also means that Mortdecai as a character makes no sense and that there's constantly something missing from the movie. Even Catch Me If You Can had a cool 60's-style opening titles sequence! Mortdecai really should have taken a page out of Jean Dujardin's brilliant OSS 117 movies and embraced its dated look and plot instead of side-stepping it whenever possible.
On the plus side, Johnny Depp is thoroughly entertaining as the clueless, cowardly yet sophisticated Charlie Mortdecai and it's hard not to crack a smile whenever he's messing around, emitting various high-pitched squeals and wobbly moans on screen. There are also some enjoyably goofy moments throughout including a messy escape at the hands of a Russian art collector, a chaotic fencing duel and a zany trip to the U.S. The jokes, sadly, are very much hit-and-miss and for every great Mortdecai moment, there's a misplaced gag or a weakly written sequence that bogs down the film back to average. It's a shame that more effort didn't go into bringing the best out of a promising concept through a sharper script or a more inventive visual style because this could have been one of 2015's best little surprises. As it stands, this is more like one of those Steve Martin Pink Panther movies but better, and that's not saying too much.
While Mortdecai fails in terms of consistency and clarity of vision, it succeeds in being a mostly fun, harmless romp. Without Depp this nutty bit of slapstick nonsense would have probably been groan-inducing and unremarkable but thankfully, we've at least got an entertaining Charlie Mortdecai to lead us through.
Amusing yet thoroughly uneven, old boy.