Mortdecai – Christian Movie Review
If you’re familiar with the ethos of the Pink Panther movies, then “Mortdecai” is simple: Lord Mortdecai (Johnny Depp) is essentially the Inspector Clouseau of England, but instead of a bumbling inspector he’s an art dealer who gets caught up in international intrigue — stolen paintings, lost Nazi gold, globetrotting, the whole works.
But is it a good movie? (Only 12% of critics think so at the moment, according to RottenTomatoes.com.) I thought the critics were a bit too hard on it (and I’ll explain why after the Parental Guidance Issues).
Are there themes of redemption in it? Yes. Is it one of the silliest movies ever? Definite yes.
But is it edifying or is the content too raunchy to make it worth your while (assuming you care about that element of movie going)? Let’s take a look.
Parental Guidance Issues at a Glance…
Sexual Content/Nudity/Themes of Sexuality (Warning: This section contains some mature content): An unmarried couple is seen having sex in bed, but there is no nudity (sheets/arms strategically block the view of nudity). Sex is heard loudly in another scene from an adjacent hotel room where Mortdecai is staying. A married couple is in a bath together (no nudity). A female character is described as a nymphomaniac, and a male character is seen grabbing her breasts in multiple scenes (though they are fully clothed). An unmarried man and a married woman — strangers who had just met — step out of an airplane bathroom together, and sex is implied. The married woman sits down with her husband who is holding her infant baby. It is played for shock and an attempt at comedy as the film highlights the almost superhuman ability of Mortdecai’s servant Jock to seduce women — even a married woman who is traveling with her husband and infant. It is extreme to the point of satire. There are many vulgar jokes that use graphic sexual description. Several women are seen in scantily clad clothing. An apparently gay character shoves himself onto another man in a grotesque, bullying way meant to make the man as uncomfortable as possible. A man tries to initiate an affair with Mortdecai’s wife, and she appears to encourage him in several scenes.
Violence/Gore: Several characters are killed or wounded with gunshot wounds (though nothing graphic or gory). Other scenes show threats of torture, including some that involve sexual anatomy — though the torture never happens.
Language: One prominent f-word, and wide smattering of other obscenities, including several misuses of “God” and “Jesus Christ.”
Alcohol/Drug/Smoking Content: Mortdecai is an alcoholic, is often drunk, and his drinking problem is used as a joke.
Frightening/Intense Content: In several scenes, captured characters are threatened with violent torture in frightening ways.
(Review continues below)
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Entertainment Value and Film Craft
Just judging the quality of the film’s craft/writing/directing, etc. (and putting the R-rated content aside for a moment), I’d say the critics were being a little too harsh. Although it’s certainly not a comedic masterpiece, it was entertaining, endearing, and fun. It has an all-star cast of A-Listers (Johnny Depp, Ewan McGregor, Gwyneth Paltrow, Paul Bettany) and some unexpected cameos that film nerds might enjoy. For example, Nicholas Farrell plays the auctioneer. Farrell co-starred in the 1981 Oscar-winning masterpiece “Chariots of Fire,” and his performance in that classic film still resonates in my memory, so it was a delightful surprise to see him on the big screen again. Similarly, Michael Byrne, who played the infamous Nazi office Vogel who tries to kill Indiana Jones with a tank in “Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade,” steals the show in a lengthy scene with Gwyneth Paltrow.
I especially enjoyed the purposely over-the-top aesthetic of the film — particularly the animation it used to transition to knew locations on the globe as the characters rushed from rural England to Moscow to Los Angeles to London to Oxford (one of my favorite cities in the world) and perhaps even a few other places I forgot about. It’s an escapist travel adventure and a crime caper.
And, most notably, it is ambitiously silly. It does not take itself seriously for even a moment, and this carefree lightheartedness somehow makes it endearing — especially with all the skilled performances of the all-star cast.
Worldview and Themes of Redemption
(Mild Spoilers Below)
Surprisingly, the central drama of the plot is not really the art caper or the lost Nazi gold. It’s the relationship between Mortdecai and his wife Johanna (Gwyneth Paltrow). Although she at times shows little to no respect for him (and often dominates him as if he were a whimpering puppy) — and although he refuses to get rid of something precious to him that makes her life miserable and threatens their marriage — the two characters come through in the end, and they exhibit a surprising commitment to their marriage and to each other. This element of the film could teach married couples some good lessons about self-sacrifice and making comprises to keep the marriage healthy — albeit in an extremely silly, ridiculous way at times.
And, although Jock is a serial womanizer, his undying selflessness toward Mortdecai, his willing-to-take-a-bullet-for-you-no-matter-what attitude is touching. It also is used as a tool to show Mortdecai’s path of redemption. He begins the movie showing little regard for the safety or sacrifices of Jock — and also being too proud and stubborn to get rid of something that makes his wife miserable — but by the end of the film Mortdecai matures beyond that selfishness. He risks his life to save Jock, and he learns to put his wife before his own selfish desires.
Despite the positive qualities of the film — and even though the endearingly silly Mortdecai does embark on a path of redemption — the audience has to slog through a lot of raunchy humor to get to that end of the rainbow. For that reason it’s hard for me to recommend this to any of my Christian readers who follow my reviews. Sex is not depicted in any redeeming context, but trivialized into gags. Granted, it is nowhere near as raunchy as many R-rated movies out there — and the over-the-top silliness of it all might be interpreted as almost a spoof of other sex comedies — but there was a lot to get through.
For example, two central characters of the film are sex addicts. Paul Bettany’s character Jock is in the center of a running joke throughout the movie that, despite being the driver/butler/man-servant/bodyguard of Mortdecai — which is a full-time, exhausting job because Mortdecai is so hapless — Jock somehow finds time to seduce a new woman every day (sometimes multiple women in a single day). It’s exaggerated to the point of being very silly. Later in the film, one of the female characters is described as a psychotic nymphomaniac, and her father makes jokes about how she has already had sex with half of the servants in his mansion. The film uses illicit sex, sex addiction, and infidelity as fodder for many of its jokes with no real redeeming purpose behind it other than to exploit the allure and intimacy of sex for empty entertainment and laughs.
Bottom-line: Although I love the cast, enjoyed their performances, laughed at much of the film’s silliness, and relished all of the globe-trotting escapism (I’m a sucker for globe-trotting caper movies), its flippant use of sex for comedic gags and its graphically vulgar dialogue makes this movie not a good choice if you’re looking for an edifying comedy.
If you just want to watch a very silly movie with great actors and fun escapism — and you couldn’t care less about the raunch-factor of a movie — then you will probably have fun at “Mortdecai” (or at least find it disarming and endearing).
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