Does Johnny Depp Still Care About Making Good Movies?

The trailer for the new Johnny Depp action-comedy Mortdecai has been released, and it doesn’t look like the movie is going to do much in restoring the actor’s reputation after a string of movies that have failed to perform well with critics.

Johnny Depp is one of the most unique and respected actors of his generation. While he hasn’t nabbed any Academy Awards, his long creative partnership with director Tim Burton resulted in his iconic roles as Edward Scissorhands and Ed Wood. For most of his career, Depp has chosen strange, artistically adventurous projects over ones guaranteed to make big money at the box office, which made fans of his work love him all the more.

Recently, it’s been hard to be a Johnny Depp fan. Depp’s recent work has been everything that his great early career was not; big budget franchises and critical failures. The science fiction film Transcendence completely bombed when it was released over the Easter weekend, taking in only $10.8 million during its opening and receiving just a 19 percent Fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes. Venerable Rolling Stone film critic Peter Travers even went so far as to call Transcendenceone of the biggest disappointments of the year.” Before that was Disney’s The Lone Ranger, which also performed poorly at the box office and with critics. The string of badly received movies continues, with many of them also flopping financially. Dark Shadows, The Rum Diary, and The Tourist were all disappointments for Depp fans as well as the people who invested in making them.

The Pirates of the Caribbean and Alice in Wonderland franchises have been solid earners at the box office, but they aren’t the type of films that characterize the work Depp’s fans love. The first Pirates was enjoyable because of Depp’s rakish, bizarre Captain Jack Sparrow, but the onslaught of sequels have performed worse and worse with critics. The fifth Pirates film is planned for 2017. Depp will reprise his role as the Mad Hatter in the second film in Tim Burton’s reinterpretation of Alice in Wonderland in 2016 as well.

Unfortunately, based on the trailer, Mortdecai doesn’t look like the kind of movie that will please fans of Depp’s early work. The movie is based on the trilogy of spy novels by Kyril Bonfiglioli, so the filmmakers are likely hoping to turn it into another bloated franchise. Cheap gags, an affected British accent, and a fake mustache seem to be the selling points of the film, and it’s cringe-inducing to see the actor who gave the sensitive performance in Edward Scissorhands sarcastically sneering at a hotel concierge after saying “I’ve got a bloody manservant.”

Mortdecai stands a good chance of making up for Depp’s box office losses earlier this year. The star-studded film also features Gwyneth Paltrow, Olivia Munn, Ewan McGregor, Jeff Goldblum, and Aubrey Plaza. The spy-comedy plot about a debonair art dealer racing against criminals to find a painting that contains the code to a safe filled with Nazi gold offers the kind of mindless fun that audiences lap up. The film appears to be almost a parody of the British spy genre, but the goofiness offered in the trailer isn’t funny enough to make up for the fact that this looks like a Pink Panther rip-off.

There is some hope for Depp fans in the upcoming gangster drama in which Depp plays the real-life Irish-American organized crime boss Whitey Bulger, as this seems like more serious material and the actor has had success playing gangsters before in Donnie Brasco and Public Enemies. Though the sheer awfulness of the trailer for Mortdecai is enough to make one wonder whether the venerable actor even cares about making good movies anymore.

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