Johnny Depp’s ‘Mortdecai’ Bombs With Critics

Charlie Mortdecai is no Jack Sparrow.

Johnny Depp as art dealer Charles Mortdecai.
Photo: YouTube screengrab.

Johnny Depp’s new art caper film hits theaters today, and while it remains to be seen if audiences will take to Mortdecai‘s title character, a mustachioed British art dealer and reluctant treasure hunter played by the popular actor, early reviews are abysmal. With 35 critics having weighed in thus far, the film currently sports a pitiful 9 percent “fresh” rating on the film review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes.

The plot appears to revolve around Charlie Mortdecai’s globetrotting misadventures as he attempts to track down a lost Goya painting with a Nazi-looted provenance, visiting 1970s London, Moscow, and, over in “the colonies,” Los Angeles.

The David Koepp–directed film’s poor reception might not come as a surprise, given its January release (the first month of the year has long been a dumping ground for movies in which the studios have little faith), save for the star-studded cast: Hollywood A-listers Gwyneth Paltrow, Ewan McGregor, Paul Bettany, Olivia Munn, Aubrey Plaza, Jeff Goldblum, and Oliver Platt all appear.

Like most Hollywood properties these days, Mortdecai is not an original story, having been adapted from the series of 1970s British comic novels by Kyril Bonfiglioli. That doesn’t mean, however, that the character is familiar to American audiences—indeed, Vulture recently published a long screed knocking the film’s promotional campaign for being entirely based on Mortdecai’s non-existent name recognition. “To offer substantive information about Mortdecai or its cinematic contents would go against what seems to be the foundational credo of the ad campaign: Hey, America—it’s your old friend, Mortdecai! Need we say more?” wrote a peeved Abraham Riesman.

Having now met the foppish “part time rogue,” critics are less than enamored of his would-be-womanizing and slapsticky antics. “Whenever Johnny Depp finishes up his long career of kooky big-screen characters, aristocratic idiot Charlie Mortdecai for sure won’t be near the top of the list,” wrote USA Today‘s Brian Truitt in his review, in reference to such iconic Depp roles as Edward Scissorhands, Jack Sparrow, and Willy Wonka.

Audiences may still turn out, but should be aware that they’re buying tickets to what the Hollywood Reporter described as “an anachronistic mess that never succeeds in re-creating the breezy tone or snappy rhythm of the classic caper movies that it aims to pastiche.”


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