A flop. That’s what Inquistr called “Mordecai” Johnny Depp’s new movie, Jan. 25. Predictably, the word pastiche was bantered about. That’s what reviewers always say when they can’t come up with anything else. So it parodies. It’s a parody! No expects a BAFTA nominee. And really, at the end of a long week a little Monty Python relieves the stress. It is a smidge Depp-driven. But all in all, Mordecai is perfectly cricket comedy, very funny (if you understand the references) and a jolly good show.
In the spy-fi-ish, Bond-esque romp through the underbelly of the art world. Depp is spot-on as the eccentric aristocrat Lord Charley Mordecai. To say that a role is out of character for him is a non-sequitor. Depp is the modern day Lon Chaney, Jr., the “man of a thousand faces.” There’s no character too bizarre that he can’t make it more so. The only thing he doesn’t do too well is serious. “What’s Eating Gilbert Grape,” “Public Enemy” and “The Secret Window” excepted. Depp adds “Mordecai” to his resume of quirky roles and the film itself to his growing list of had-a-hand-in-producing.
Very few Americans can imitate the British accent, Depp included. But it’s meant to be exaggerated. What he gets spot-on are the references. Most of us are conversant in a smattering of Brit-ese: “cheeky”, “blimey,” ruddy,” etc. Depp hits phrases and expressions you don’t hear unless you’re a die-hard anglophile.
Depp has a flair for impersonation–or shall we call it caricature. He has the eccentric aristocrat down pat. He’d fit right in at Blandings. And playing opposite the enormously talented Paul Bettany (as Jacques, Lord Mordecai’s doggedly-devoted, long-suffering, oft-shot, casanova, thug-cum-manservant) is a match made in heaven.
The movie features fun chases in a sexy, vintage Rolls-Royce, Ural motorcycle and sidecar, and assorted other wonderfully expensive looking vehicles. There’s a missing Goya to find, steal, lose, hunt down, steal again. Villains are hilarious: a bumbling art dealer rival, an ostentatious dullard American (Jeff Goldblum) a balls-happy Russian, a finger-happy Asian, a vitriolic Italian, a pugilistic Syrian, a Philistine failed-poet MI-5 agent (Ewan Macgregor). And Mordecai’s wife Joanna (Gwyneth Paltrow), the brains of the bunch. There’s a sub-plot over the fate of a mustache. If you are said anglophile, you’ll recognize some familiar Brit actors.
You know how some shows cram the only three funny scenes in the one-minute trailer? The you sit there looking for something funny and kicking yourself for wasting the money? Well, Mordecai is laugh outloud-funny all the way through. And it doesn’t rely on gratuitous vulgarity or swearing. Props for sets and props, too. And for artistic layout. And a listenable soundtrack with 60s-esque psychedelic “Johanna” by Miles Kane.”
So Mordecai won’t win prizes for substance. Depp will probably never do much serious work. He has too much fun with the bombast, the makeup and costumes! But then speaking undeserved awards, “The Grand Budapest Hotel” is eyeing an Oscar. So all may not be lost.