There’s usually more than one movie coming out in theaters each weekend, and this one is no different. Audiences seem to have a pretty clear choice between their main options – the cartoonish art-heist farce “Mortdecai” starring Johnny Depp and Gwyneth Paltrow, and Jennifer Lopez in the nearly thrill-free thriller “The Girl Next Door”.
You might be able to discern which movie I liked a bit better from the above introduction. If you guessed “Mortdecai”, you guessed right, even if this movie about rich people, assorted terrorists and criminals, and a British intelligence agent all chasing a valuable piece of art isn’t quite art itself. But it sure beats “Girl”, which announces its complete lack of effort and intention simply by having Lopez as its star.
As a Catholic and a film critic for both Catholic, Christian and secular media outlets, I’ve learned to judge movies both artistically and for their moral content or lack thereof. “Mortdecai” stars Depp as Charlie Mortdecai, a wealthy yet financially imperiled and shady art dealer who travels the globe selling famous paintings at nonetheless overpriced levels.
He’s joined on his adventures by a servant/bodyguard named Jock (Paul Bettany), who helps him fight, shoot or drive his way out of the trouble he always falls into, and his wife Johanna (Gwyneth Paltrow). She’s the perfect accomplice in his schemes until she sees his new mustache and is utterly revolted, threatening to leave Mortdecai if he doesn’t shave it off.
Problem is, he’s so self-absorbed, he stands his ground, even as they get involved in a madcap race to get their hands on a valuable painting by the artist Goya before a Syrian terrorist can. Teams of Russian and Asian gangsters, along with shady art collectors from around the world and a British Intelligence inspector (Ewan McGregor) who used to be Mortdecai’s romantic rival for Johanna are in hot pursuit as well.
But Is It Suitable For Catholics?
“Mortdecai” has been savaged by most critics as being heavy-handed, but I and the audience I saw it with laughed and chuckled throughout. It resembles the “Austin Powers” movies, if they were made in the lush visual style of Wes Anderson (of “Grand Budapest Hotel” and “The Royal Tenenbaums” fame). There are sexual innuendos at a rapid clip throughout the movie, but most of them – there IS one gross line, but it’s a blip on the screen of the overall movie – are still much less crass than those uttered by Mike Myers’ Austin Powers in those films.
The only actual sex shown is a three-second glimpse of a young Johanna on top of Mortdecai in a college dorm room in their pre-marriage days, where it is implied that she’s nude but no breasts or other sexual organs are shown. Otherwise, they’re tastefully seen in a bathtub, as flirtatious as the day they met. There’s almost no foul language and the ample comic violence is indeed comically cartoonish rather than anything anyone could possibly be offended by.