At some point along the way, the public seems to have turned on Johnny Depp. To use WWE terms, he went from a babyface (good guy) to a heel (bad guy), except unlike the heavily scripted world of wrestling this character turn wasn’t actually planned. Depp started out as a lovably quirky character actor who we were all happy to see get his big break with Pirates of the Caribbean, but after one too many Tim Burton movies and several too many Pirates of the Caribbean sequels his shtick grew stale. Now, his mere presence in any new movie is cause for typical internet snark like “And there’s Johnny Depp being purposefully weird…for like the one millionth time!”
So, what are we to make of the new trailer for Depp’s upcoming film Mortdecai, in which he has traded in pancake makeup (Alice in Wonderland) and birds on his head (Lone Ranger) for a fancy mustache as a signifier of his hopefully delightful quirkiness? Moreover, this particular film seems to have doubled down on the potential for snarky backlash by also casting Gwyneth Paltrow, she of the conscious uncoupling and money-losing internet ventures. She’s even using a British accent in this film, mirroring her real-life status as an American-born actress who has since abandoned the U.S. for the U.K. ala Madonna.
In Mortdecai, Depp plays a “debonair art dealer who “juggles angry Russians, the British MI5, his impossibly leggy wife and an international terrorist as he travels the globe in a race to recover a stolen painting rumored to contain the code to a lost bank account filled with Nazi gold.” As the AV Club argued, it all comes off a bit like The Pink Panther, the Peter Sellers version, not the unfortunate Steve Martin one, and does mostly coast by on pointing out how many famous people are in the movie and doing funny British accents:
I’ll admit: that moment in the trailer when Depp accidentally shoots a man only for them to all be ever so British about it, like an anglophiled version of the Dick Cheney shooting incident, made me laugh out loud.
Much has been made about the huge financial failures of Depp’s most recent projects, Dark Shadows, The Lone Ranger, and Transcendence, potentially signaling that his particular brand of quirk has reached the point of over-exposure, which is a nice way of saying that the dude needs to go away for a while because we’re stick of him. Yeah, that’s not happening. He’s appearing as the Big Bad Wolf in Disney’s adaptation of Stephen Sondheim’s musical Into the Woods, due this Christmas, and has a starring role alongside Benedict Cumberbatch in the true crime drama Black Mass due Sept. 2015. That’s in addition to cameos in Kevin Smith’s Tusk, Billy Bob Thornton’s London Fields and return appearances in the Alice in Wonderland sequel (due 2016) and yet another Pirates of the Caribbean (due 2017).
It’s not exactly like Depp actually needs to keep acting to help pay the bills. By his own admission, he has been paid “stupid money” (as in it’s just insanely high) for the Pirates films, with WhatCulture recently reporting that the franchise had earned him nearly $200 million, the third-highest payday for an actor in film history. Moreover, it was no secret that he was paid a salary of $20 million for Transcendence, which is almost exactly as much as the film grossed in the U.S. and Canada ($23 million) before topping out at $103 million worldwide against a production budget of $100 million.
However, Depp is still the guy who showed up in that hilarious, vanity-free cameo in 21 Jump Street, just as he did years ago in Freddy’s Dead: The Final Nightmare and has done so again in Tusk. He’s still the guy capable of a moving, subdued performance in the likes of Finding Neverland and over-the-top hilarious turn in something like Cry Baby. In short, he’s still a really good actor, an incredible likable one on top of everything else. Mortdecai is his attempt at a Pink Panther, and it doesn’t look that bad.
Directed by David Koepp, who previously directed Depp in Secret Window, Mortdecai is adapted from a trilogy of comedic novels by Kyril Bonfiglioli. It also stars Paul Bettany, Oliver Platt, Aubrey Plaza, Ewan McGregor and Olivia Munn. It is due out from Lionsgate on February 6, 2015.
What about you? Did you find the trailer to be the definition of “unfunny”? Love Depp now and forever and will fight anyone who says otherwise? Leave a comment to let us know.