Voldemortedcai would be way more entertaining

There are many things to say concerning Mortdecai. He’s helpless, snooty, bratty, spoiled, wimpy, whiny, prim, proper, and utterly clueless. And this is the hero.

Is Mortedcai catastrophic cinema? Mostly, yes. The film is a special type of failure, a bizarre cultural mix-up which appears to condescend itself in its desperate lurch for laughs. Somehow, at the center is Johnny Depp, whose quirks here are at their outlandish heights, or lows, really.

The story of Mortedcai’s failure will be iconic whenever the totality of the behind-the-scenes decision making is revealed. Unlike recent flops – John Carter or Depp’s Lone Ranger – there is seemingly no direction Mortedcai could have taken to be successful. Mega budget space and cowboy movies are sensible risks; a satire of British politeness forced onto a foreign audience is not a sensible risk in any market evaluation.

Highlights (and there are few) are induced by vomit gags. Mortdecai’s clearly absurd mustache becomes a running gag, a zinger which results in a slew of near upchucks until Paul Bettany delightfully scatters chunks of shellfish appetizers on a car windshield during a near climactic chase scene. Such a scenario undoubtedly represents the reaction of executives who witnessed the empty box office receipts.

This is not an instance where another American star could have saved the presented material, or another American director would have been better considered. Mortdecai’s screwball material is outrageously corny without the dry, deft touch of English eyes. Such a story of a broke, very British, art dealer/thief investigating the theft of rare Goya is flaccid from the outset. Gangsters, mafia, MI6; they only serve to further cloud the waters. Mortdcai’s flamboyance is strictly out of place.

Kyril Bonfiglioli wrote the original novel – “Don’t Point That Thing at Me” – a far more elaborate, descriptive title than what was given to the screen adaptation. This also sums up Mortdecai’s failure as an abstract form of a blockbuster. Home studio Lionsgate flipped the story into something it’s not. It is only as British as broad, mainstream U.S. audiences would allow. Mortdecai’s entire wealth of timing, wit, and charm is dissected in a multi-faceted misrepresentation of British culture. More importantly, a twisting of British humor too. It’s a pretender.

Were the film to be broken down into pieces, it becomes a movie about a mustache. Mortdecai’s narcissistic perception of his own handsomeness interferes with his deals, interrupts his marriage, and becomes a running joke which Mortdecai can use to springboard any humor. Clearly not much to go on, yet the joke returns for a revisit. Then another. And another. Depp’s performance concerns flicking his ‘stache, people introducing themselves while paying notice to the designer stubble, and others merely laugh. It’s as if the actors become a background laugh track, which is good since few in the viewing room will be adding their own genuine chuckles.

Movie ★☆☆☆☆ 

Strong on facial detail @ 12:53

Predominantly a work of the Red Epic, Mortdecai features abundant sharpness. Too much so, actually. Minor signs of ringing and low level edge enhancement are unfortunate. Such tinkering leads to rounds of flicker and aliasing, spotted in the background or during establishing aerial shots. Some of the trim work on the cars is noticeably broken up as well.

Underneath the sharpening fault – which may or may not have been there in theaters but since no one saw it, who knows? – is a generally pleasing, well textured feature. Facial definition is strong, certainly consistent. Shots of cities are clean. Resolution feels packed into the frame to squeeze out fine detail.

While contrast is typically perky, black levels appear a touch flat. As Mortdecai is caught and brought to Moscow, the room is coated in drab grays. Such a shot seems unfinished in post. While the latter is a worst case, others similar in context appear weakened too.

As for coloring, Mortdecai’s flesh tones are clean and primaries are bright. While not substantial, the post production work gives the film life away from the expected rainy, cloudy day aesthetic British-appearing films often go for. Mortdecai wins one. Finally.

Video ★★★★☆ 

And then it dies out again with a listless 7.1 mix which sounds uncaring and flat. A rather plain bit of gunfire can be sourced from specific channels and chases envelop the field adequately, but that’s it. Mortdecai’s sound work is in a dead zone and barely makes itself known. Even an explosion flattens out with meager low-end punch.

A few lines of dialog do stretch toward the stereos now and then, a touch of alertness to a sleeping track. Ambiance on the streets is missing and a swordfight ignores the presence of anything other than the center. Utterly weak.

Audio ★★★☆☆ 

Bonus features exude the, “We lost enough money on this already” philosophy. Stolen Moments is basic 16-minute behind-the-scenes peering with Deep and Paltrow poorly green screened over footage as they speak. In comparison, the 12-minute Art of Noise looks at the process of scoring the film in detail with appreciation for composer Mark Ronson.

Extras ★★☆☆☆ 

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Click on the images below for full resolution screen captures taken directly from the Blu-ray. Images have not been altered in any way during the process.