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Stars: Johnny Depp, Gwyneth Paltrow, Ewan McGregor, Paul Bettany, Jeff Goldblum, Olivia Munn, Michael Culkin, Johnny Pasvolsky, Ulrich Thomsen, Alex Utgoff, Rob De Groot, Guy Burnet, Paul Whitehouse, Norma Atallah, Michael Byrne, Nicholas Farrell, Jenna Russell

Director: David Koepp

It’s not yet February and we already have the 2015 Oscar-winner for Unfunniest Waste of Film Stock.

To be fair, there was one sequence that I really enjoyed: it was the end credits that arrived after what seemed like several laughter-free years. Unfortunately, they were far too late to save the film.

The film might also qualify for an award for a worst chosen (and appropriately badly played) leading role. I can see why Johnny Depp, top billed as the eponymous ‘Mortdecai’, a broke upper class English twit-cum-art dealer desperately trying to find a stolen Goya painting to save his stately home and save his marriage to Gwyneth Paltrow; she looks even slimmer than the clunking screenplay by Eric Aronson who bravely still takes a screen credit.

Mortdecai, who originated in three 1970s comic novels by Kyril Bonfiglioli, first appears trying to con cash out of Oriental villains in a nightclub. After that his increasingly unfunny adventures as he hunts for the missing Goya take him to various English settings that make PG Wodehouse resemble Mickey Spillane by comparison and then to the States.

Despite the worldwide search for humour, joke after attempted joke falls flatter than the Dead Sea. Sample side-splitters (and I apologise for Mr Aronson) include Depp’s “I had no idea I was so deep in Her Majesty’s Hole” when apprised of his disastrous tax situation and, later. “Are you quite finished buggering around?”

The latter line would best have been directed to director David Koepp who faced the impossible task of attempting to salvage this disaster but which sank like the Titanic.

The iceberg in question? Script and performances.

Depp, sporting a supremely silly moustache (if he hoped it would make him unrecognisable, he was sadly wrong. Producer Johnny Depp allowed a flashback in which moustache-free Depp is all too recognizable when he accidentally shoots his manservant Paul Bettany).

Bettany, given the witty name Jock Strapp (he heads the list of performers who would surely win should they decide to sue their agents), fights literally against various villains and, less successfully, against the screenplay.

Ewan McGregor coasts successfully as a MI5 man with a finger in the crustless pie and Jeff Goldblum turns up as an American millionaire after the Goya. Sadly for him, he doesn’t turn into the Fly and soar out of the shambles. And Paltrow is reduced to a series of smutty jokes while refusing sex with Depp unless he removes his moustache.

Mind, you, were there an Oscar for Most Consistent Performance, the ridiculous moustache in question would win.

I assume, given the supremely silly English accents and silly ass Englishmen on display, Mortdecai might have been planned as homage (but here the outcome is most definitely fromage) to such originals as Terry-Thomas and Peter Sellers.

The end result, however, is more Clueless than Clouseau. The whining noise throughout the screening of film (in the British Film Institute, surely the least likely setting possible for Mortdecai) was presumably legions of British comics led by Sellers rotating wildly in their graves.

Alan Frank

USA 2015. UK Distributor: Lionsgate. Colour.
106 minutes. Widescreen. UK certificate: 12A.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 1, Violence/Horror 0, Drugs 0, Swearing 2.

Review date: 22 Jan 2015