Review – The Depp’s This Man Will Sink (“Mortdecai”)

Taking the Mortdecai novels, written by Kyril Bonfiglioli from the 70’s and 80’s, and spinning them into a movie must have looked good on paper. After all, the dim-witted hero is Maxwell Smart, Austin Powers, Inspector Clouseau, and Bertie Wooster all rolled into one. But something went terribly wrong along the way. The talents of Johnny Depp, Gwyneth Paltrow, Ewan McGregor, Paul Bettany, Olivia Munn, and Jeff Goldblum are wasted in this totally unfunny spy-ish caper about a stolen painting.
We meet Lord Charles (“Charlie”) Mortdecai (Depp) in a strikingly similar beginning to Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, where Charlie is selling a priceless vase to some shady Chinese underworld types. Charlie is very deep in debt (8 million pounds) and needs money fast. That deal goes south fast, but that’s okay because he’s always got his trusty thug-of-a-manservant, Jock Strapp (Bettany) to help him out. Jock is fiercely loyal, gets beaten up or shot alot, and bangs as many women as possible on the side, y’know, as a hobby.

Charlie’s gorgeous wife, Lady Johanna (Paltrow) is having a conniption fit over her husband’s new mustache that he’s obsessing over, and refuses to sleep with him until he shaves it off. But there’s no time for marital spats; a priceless Goya painting has been stolen and Inspector Alistair Martland (McGregor), who openly has the hots for Johanna, goes to Charlie for help in retrieving it. Although he’s not a detective per se, we learn in narration that Charlie occasionally helps out MI-5 with underworld criminal practices like this from time to time. After negotiating a finders-fee price, Charlie is on the case and searching for clues while being pursued by the thief who first stole it. Soon some Russian bad guys kidnap Charlie to Moscow to meet Romonov (Ulrich Thompson), a sinister art dealer who wants that Goya.

Saved by Jock… again… Charlie is then sent to L.A. by Martland because another art dealer named Krampf (Goldblum) has purchased Charlie’s Rolls-Royce and may have the stolen Goya. Once there, Charlie finds out not only does he indeed have the Goya, but he’s constantly being seduced by Georgina (Munn), Krampf’s nymphomaniac daughter (Munn). During a gala party that night where Lady Johanna unexpectedly shows up, Charlie discovers that Georgina is in cahoots to steal the painting as well. Further investigation reveals that the back of the painting has a secret Swiss bank account number that could lead to untold millions!

But is the real Goya painting in the hands of the bad guys or hanging in an old man’s bathroom back in England? How does Lady Johanna figure in all of this with her own  investigation? And what’s up with Charlie’s gag reflex when someone is about to vomit? At this point I didn’t even care; I almost walked out at this point. Seriously. But I stayed until the end, just for you dear readers so I could give you my review. No, that’s okay, no need to thank me.

Written by Eric Aronson (his first screenplay and it shows) and directed by David Koepp, this terribly unfunny film had SO much potential, I could cry. The characters were lazy and uninteresting (except for Jock who had a spark of nuance), the plotting was slow and sloppy, the dialogue and narration was void of anything original, and the direction was clumsy and uninspired. I’ve seen student films that were better.All the source material was there to make a very satirical, LOL movie in the vein of Britain’s Jeeves & Wooster TV show and stage plays. THAT would have been good. Instead we have this attempt at what could have been a wonderful film, wasting great talents, and giving Depp another black eye in his movie career. WTH, Johnny?! Who is picking these movies for you to do?

The Pink Panther Strikes Again (1976)

Get lost Mortdecai, move over Austin Powers, stand aside Maxwell Smart, here’s Inspector Clouseau. The world owes a HUGE debt to Peter Sellers and his bumbling, stumbling French detective who, despite his penchant for fouling things up, always came away solving the case. The Pink Panther series spawned eight movies under director Blake Edwards, two horrific re-makes with Steve Martin, and one bad one with Alan Arkin.

Coming in at number three in the series, Sellers was at his peak with director/writer Blake Edwards’ (with co-writer Frank Waldman) fantastic, funny script and crazy stunts galore thanks to Burt Kwok as Clouseau’s man-servant, Kato, who is under orders to attack his boss at anytime. The nutty plot involves Clouseau’s old boss, Chief Inspector Dreyfus (the glorious Herbert Lom), who’s gone completely mad, thanks to Clouseau. He’s escaped the psychiatric hospital, only to round up a host of dangerous criminals for one special purpose. . .to kill Clouseau!

Dreyfus kidnaps brilliant Professor Fassbender (Richard Vernon) and forces him to build a doomsday weapon which Dreyfus plans to unleash on the world unless Clouseau is eliminated. With that threat, Clouseau goes on the hunt for his old boss in England and Germany for clues, causing panic and trouble everywhere he goes. Meanwhile, the bounty on Clouseau’s head brings out many other nation’s assassins–who all get knocked off with Clouseau’s unknowing ineptness. But there is one sexy Russian agent (Lesley-Anne Down) who falls for the detective instead of killing him. Go figure.

Finally locating the deranged Dreyfus in a remote castle, Clouseau disguises himself as a dentist and infiltrates the building, but chaos ensues and the doomsday machine goes haywire (guess who’s fault that is?), leading to the goofy demise of Dreyfus (well, not really as he reappears in the next movie) and Clouseau being hailed a hero… again!

This is just pure fun to watch with Sellers at his best with the iconic character he created. Look for all the other characters he becomes when he dons his various disguises; the man was a virtuoso of comedy. Then you had Blake Edwards, the master of the gag and the comedy set-up and Kwok’s insane over-the-top kung-fu antics. Put them altogether and you got magic on the screen from start to finish, not to mention Henry Mancini’s score (which you KNOW instantly when you hear it anywhere) and the opening and closing cartoon credits.


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