Blu-ray Review: Mortdecai

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I went into Mortdecai (now available on Blu-ray, DVD, and Digital HD from Lionsgate) with as open a mind as possible. That’s no easy feat considering the film grossed less than $8 million in the U.S. and was mercilessly panned by critics. While Mordecai might not be quite dead-on-arrival, it loses steam very quickly after. It feels like a ridiculously extravagant adaptation of a Saturday Night Live sketch that was already stretching its limits before hitting the five-minute mark (think of what a feature-length version of “The Continental” might feel like, for example).

The problems presented in Mortdecai’s trailer are only magnified in the finished film. Lionsgate marketed the film on the basis of one element: Johnny Depp. There was very little attempt at conveying any type of plot. Instead they tried to sell the movie on the fact that Depp was adding yet another eccentric oddball to his catalog of strange characters. For two hours, we watch Depp’s shtick as art dealer Charlie Mortdecai grow increasingly tired. His wife Johanna is played by Gwyneth Paltrow. His frenemy Inspector Martland is played by Ewan McGregor. Avengers: Age of Ultron’s Paul Bettany scores some of the film’s most potent laughs as Mortdecai’s assistant Jock. It’s all about the actors and their zany characterizations rather than any true storytelling.

mortdecai2 rs.jpgThe cast also includes Olivia Munn and Jeff Goldblum, so if you’re a fan of any of these actors that might be reason enough to give Mortdecai a spin. But what begins as a mildly amusing character sketch eventually drifts into intolerably overblown farce territory. Martland enlists Mortdecai to help him a recover a valuable painting that was recently stolen. The convoluted, unnecessarily protracted plot drags the entire thing to a tedious slog. There’s action involving Russian criminals and all sorts of nonsense, but director David Koepp can’t keep all the balls in the air. The film is never funnier than when Martland first pays a visit to Mortdecai and is served cheese so pungent it nearly makes Jock pass out. And, truth be told, that’s not really super funny to begin with. On top of it, ‘silly moustache’ jokes were done much better in Seth McFarland’s A Million Ways to Die in the West.

Lionsgate’s Blu-ray is beyond reproach, delivering all the extreme clarity and robust colors we expect of a recent big-budget, high definition presentation. Somewhat surprisingly, Mortdecai has been granted DTS-HD MA 7.1 mix. It’s an aggressively over-the-top sonic presentation, with more immersive audio than the film really needs. Like everything else about Mortdecai, the soundtrack trades on excess. It may not add up to much aesthetically, but it sure makes for a great technical presentation.

mortdecai3 rs.jpgProbably due to the film’s stunning lack of popularity, not much in the way of extras has been dredged up for Mortdecai. There are two featurettes: “Stolen Moments: On the Set of Mortdecai (16 minutes) and “The Art of Nose: Making Music for Mortdecai” (12 minutes). The former shows the cast having a lot more fun making the film than the audience did while watching it. The latter is about composer Geoff Zanelli.

The Mortdecai Blu-ray also includes a Digital HD copy. Proceed with extreme caution unless you have an insatiable appetite for overly quirky Johnny Depp performances.

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Chaz Lipp is a Seattle-based freelance writer whose focus is music and film. As “The Other Chad,” he has written for the online magazine Blogcritics since 2008. When he’s not writing, Chaz can be found trolling jazz clubs, attempting to find somewhere to play his sax (whether anyone wants to hear…

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