The saddest part of Mortdecai‘s abysmal debut this weekend was how expected it seemed to be. Johnny Depp’s latest starring vehicle, in which he plays a daffy British bon-vivant jetting around the world to find a stolen masterpiece, aimed to be a kind of Pink Panther-esque caper—but American audiences stayed away in droves, and the critics unloaded. “In the end, we must lay the badness of Mortdecai at the feet of its star,” wrote New York‘s David Edelstein. “I envy Depp’s capacity for self-amusement, but it’s a pity he’s so rich and enbubbled that no one dares say to say to him, ‘Er, Johnny… this is, er, really very bad.'”
Mortdecai is expected to barely crack $4 million this weekend, making it Depp’s worst wide debut since 1999’s The Astronaut’s Wife. But most everyone saw this debacle coming: the comedy opened in less than 2,700 theaters—indicating a startling amount of indifference from the exhibitors towards a major Hollywood superstar—and many of the nation’s leading film critics couldn’t be bothered to review it. (Those who did chime in pilloried the film with a 12 percent rating on Rotten Tomatoes.) Though Depp currently has a hit in theaters, with a supporting role as the Wolf in Into the Woods, Mortdecai is his fifth consecutive stinker as the film’s star, following in the wake of Transcendence, The Lone Ranger, Dark Shadows, and The Rum Diary.
His last real blockbuster was the fourth Pirates of the Caribbean film, On Stranger Tides, cashing in again as Capt. Jack Sparrow. Recall that Depp spent the bulk of his 30s thrashing against Hollywood’s square-peg efforts to make him the billon-dollar star he looked like on the poster, and that it eventually happened only after his cockeyed portrayal of Sparrow.
Capt. Jack is a delightfully ironic gag that pleased him to no end. But Depp used the success of the Pirates franchise as an endorsement of a tic—the “aria of weirdness” that requires him to hide behind characters rather than disappear into them. Since Capt. Jack gave him carte blanche, there’s been Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Sweeney Todd, Alice in Wonderland, Dark Shadows, The Lone Ranger, Transcendence, Into the Woods, and now, Mortdecai. Some of these characters were pretty fabulous concoctions, but together, they mask something else: For an actor who can literally make any movie he chooses, Depp has fallen into the type of creative rut that would’ve made 1995 Johnny Depp roll his eyes. READ FULL STORY