Mortdecai, film review: Johnny Depp is good value but the dialogue is dull and dim-witted

(12A) David Koepp, 107 mins Starring: Johnny Depp, Gwyneth Paltrow, Ewan McGregor, Paul Bettany
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The Independent Culture

Mortdecai is reminiscent of some of the wildly misfiring comedies that Peter Sellers used to make in the 1960s and 1970s – the worst of the Pink Panther films, or the star-studded fiascoes such as the 1967 Casino Royale. There are some laughs along the way but not nearly enough of them.

Johnny Depp, at least initially, is good value as the gap-toothed British aristocrat and art-thief hero, forever preening his moustache and speaking in a leering voice that is part Uncle Monty and part Leslie Phillips. As his wife, Johanna, Gwyneth Paltrow enjoys adopting a very supercilious English accent and playing the upper-class English rose type. There is a funny cameo from Depp's old mucker Paul Whitehouse as a Spanish car mechanic and some of the slapstick involving Paul Bettany as his priapic, injury-prone manservant Jock Strapp just about works in its own sub-Benny Hill way.

The downside is an incredibly convoluted script involving a stolen Goya painting, random changes of location (we are whisked, for no particular reason, from London to Moscow to LA), too many gags involving vomit and rotting cheese, and some incredibly dull and dim-witted dialogue that would barely have passed muster in a bad British 1970s sitcom.

The director David Koepp is a distinguished screenwriter but, on this evidence, he doesn't have much flair for staging comedy. The producers have suggested this might be the start of a Mortdecai franchise, but it is hard to see much point in giving the old cove a second outing.