Mortdecai Shows That Action Flicks Can Still Be Fun Without Being Dark, Gritty, Moody, Or Violent

Courtesy:  Lionsgate

Courtesy: Lionsgate

Twelve years ago, veteran actor Johnny Depp single-handedly resurrected his career and became one of the movie industry’s hottest commodities when he starred in Disney’s Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl. Sadly though, his career has been in something of a free fall since then. Few if any of the movies in which he has starred since have gone on to the same level of success as that surprise sleeper hit. That includes the now trio of sequels that followed it and his latest movie Mortdecai, which debuted in theaters earlier this year. As with those previously noted movies, Mortdecai was released to a rather tepid response by critics and fans alike. So why exactly did Depp’s latest effort fall so flat? It’s just this critic’s own take but more than likely the reason that it failed is simple. It failed in theaters for exact same reason that it has proven so enjoyable for this critic–its stylistic approach. More simply put, it’s an action comedy in a world overly populated with dark, gritty action flicks. While that doesn’t seem like very much it is an important element to note. It’s just one of the factors that makes the movie work, too. The work of writer Eric Aronson in his adaptation of author Kyril Bonfiglioli’s original book is just as important to the presentation in whole. Last but hardly least important of all to mention is the work of the movie’s cast. This includes not only lead star Johnny Depp but his co-stars, too. Depp’s own acting throws back (intentionally or not) to the work of Peter Sellers and even at one point to Dudley Moore. The work of his cast mates is entertaining in its own right, too. The cast’s acting coupled with Eric Aronson’s adaptation of author Kyril Bonfiglioli and the very concept of the movie being a shining beacon among a sea of overly dark, gritty, violent action flicks, all three elements prove without a doubt that all of this movie’s naysayers are completely wrong in their reviews. As a matter of fact, it proves in the end to be one of this year’s most unsuspecting hits.

Despite what so many audiences and critics had to say about it, Lionsgate’s new action comedy Mortdecai is one of the most unsuspecting hits of 2015. This surprisingly entertaining release is a shining beacon in a sea polluted with overly dark, violent, action flicks. That is the main reason that this movie is such an unsuspecting hit. It may not seem like much. But it is in fact an important factor to consider. In an age when Marvel, DC and others are competing to make the darkest, grittiest, moodiest, and most violent action flick possible without garnering an “R” rating, Lionsgate has taken the road less traveled with this movie. It has opted to take the elements that have made Marvel and DC’s movies so popular and traded them in for a much more lighthearted yet equally action-filled story that will also leave open-minded audiences laughing nonstop from beginning to end. Taking that into account Aronson and Director David Koepp showed through their combined work on this movie that an action movie doesn’t necessarily have to be the next Dark Kight Returns, X-Men, or even James Bond to be entertaining. They showed with this rather rarely used approach that a movie can be action packed and entertaining without being dark, violent, and brooding. Keeping that in mind, the approach used for Mortdecai proves in the long run Mortdecai gives hope that maybe one day audiences and studios alike will finally lean back to those stand-alone movies rather than rely on the ever decreasingly original and creative franchise flicks that are out there. Both of those aspects of the movie’s stylistic approach are equally important to the whole of that element. Together, they show why Mortdecai simply not following other studios’ action flick formula makes this movie well worth the watch.

The fact that Mortdecai doesn’t follow the standard formula used by other major action flicks past and present is within itself more than enough reason for those tired of all the dark, gritty, violent action flicks to watch it. Eric Aronson’s adaptation of author Kyril Bonfiglioli’s book Don’t Point That Thing At Me is another reason for audiences to check out this movie. Aronson’s script offers up just enough plot twists and comedic moments from beginning to end to keep audiences completely engaged and entertained. The twists coupled with the story’s pacing and its transitions are handled so expertly that at no point will audiences ever feel like they need a program to know what’s going on. What’s more, there is at no point any brooding or other material that would make it comparable to all the other action flicks out there. And the jokes that Aronson throws in are obviously not for younger viewers. But in comparison to some of the material churned out by writers of bigger-named movies, they are actually far less crass than the jokes churned out by so many writers out there today. To that extent, Aronson is to be highly commended. All of this considered, the writing behind Mortdecai proves once to even more length why it is such an unsuspecting hit. It still is not the last reason that it proves itself worth the chance. The work of the cast rounds out the reasons for audiences to give Mortdecai a second chance now that it is now available on DVD and Blu-ray.

Being that Mortdecai is not just another unnecessarily dark, gritty, brainless, explosion-filled action flick is in itself plenty of reason for those looking for something different to give it a chance. Writer Eric Aronson’s adaptation of Kyril Bonafiglioli’s original book Don’t Point That Thing At Me makes it even more worth the watch as it is loaded with laughs’ laughs that in their own way throw back to the days of the Pink Panther franchise. Speaking of that franchise, the work of Johnny Depp and his cast mates throws back to those movies just as much ironically enough. Intentional or not, Depp’s work as the movie’s title character instantly conjures thoughts of Peter Sellers what with Mortdecai’s overall personality and his bumbling ways. One could even argue that Mortdecai’s drunken presentation in his return from Moscow is a throwback to Dudley Moore. Again this is the case even if it wasn’t intentional. Given neither Depp’s portrayals aren’t precisely the same as those of Moore or Sellers. But the similarities are there. On the other side of the coin, Ewan McGregor does an excellent job of making Inspector Martland a completely despicable character. This is the case even though Martland is one of the good guys, interestingly enough. The thing is that he doesn’t necessarily make audiences hate Martland per se. Rather he makes Martland a great foil to Mortdecai at which audiences enjoy laughing in his failures. Moving on, Paul Bettany is just as entertaining as Mortdecai’s servant Jock. Considering the way that Mortdecai treats Jock, one can’t help but laugh at the pair’s relationship. At the same time, one can’t help but feel at least a little sorry for Jock considering that relationship. It makes for quite the surprise that Jock was in fact not the suspect in the end, not to reveal too much about the movie. Female audiences will be just as enamoured with Gwyneth Paltrow’s portrayal of Johanna. Johanna is the total antithesis of the stereotypical action flick female lead. She is a strong, confident figure. Yet she doesn’t come out and scream it. Rather she shows it in more of a reserved, demure fashion that will have audiences laughing just as riotously as the work of her cast mates. Audiences will love watching her handle Charlie without even lifting a finger. That subtle yet strong portrayal is one of the best of the cast. When partnered with the work of said cast mates, the collective body of work from Paltrow and her cast mates proves once more why Mortdecai is worth far more credit than it received in its run in theaters earlier this year. When set along with the previously noted factors, it serves to help prove once and for all why Mortdecai is not only deserving of far more credit than it received but why it is in fact one of the best new theatrical releases of 2015.

Mortedcai was panned by critics and audiences alike when it was released in theaters earlier this year. The only reason that this critic can come up with for its lack of success is that audiences have been so conditioned by the endless mass of unnecessarily dark, gritty, violent action flicks churned out in recent years that they have lost sight of what’s really important and enjoyable in an action movie. Not to mention the fact that Mortdecai was far less familiar with audiences than anything offered up by DC and Marvel in recent years. These factors taken into consideration audiences and critics that panned Mortdecai were sadly missing the enjoyment that it really offers. The fact that Mortdecai stands wholly apart from that noted mass of movies actually makes it far more entertaining than said features in this critic’s own view. Eric Aronson’s work in adapting Kyril Bonafiglioli’s original book couple with the work of the movie’s lead cast show even more why it is so surprisingly entertaining. It’s just too bad others didn’t see that. But hopefully now that it is available on DVD and Blu-ray those same audiences that panned it, and those that have yet to see it, will give it a chance and see everything that this critic has seen. If not, it is their own loss as they are missing out, again, on what is one of this year’s best new theatrical releases.

Mortdecai is available now in stores and online on DVD and Blu-ray. It can be ordered direct from Lionsgate’s online store at http://www.lionsgateshop.com/search_results.asp?Search=Mortdecai. More information on this and other titles from Lionsgate is available online at:

Website: http://www.lionsgate.com

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/lionsgate

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