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The R-Rated Johnny Depp Movie That Got A PG-13 Cut On Home Video

Given the very public off-screen troubles that have followed Johnny Depp around over the past few years, being a fan of the actor is more complicated than it used to be. But that was arguably true before the one-time superstar's fall from grace, with Depp enduring a string of career ups and downs in the last decade. And on the actor's list of big screen downs, the 2015 comic misfire "Mortdecai" undoubtedly ranks pretty high.

Released amid the typical late-January malaise — a historical dumping ground for movies producers don't have much faith in — the big-budget comedy re-teamed Depp with his "Secret Window" director, David Koepp, and paired Depp with fellow A-listers Gwyneth Paltrow, Ewan McGregor, and Paul Bettany. But all that star power still couldn't help the $60 million Lionsgate offering find an audience, with the film failing to even recoup its budget at the worldwide box office. And it's safe to say a legitimately frigid reception from critics didn't exactly help its case. 

As reported in a 2015 article from Forbes, the epic box office failure of "Mortdecai" forced Lionsgate to take desperate measures, hoping to recoup the film's losses on the home video market. Only instead of releasing a potentially lucrative "director's cut" version of the film rife with all manner of extra footage, the studio opted instead to cut several more scenes from the R-rated affair. They likely did so hoping more young viewers might be able to see "Mortdecai" if it bore a PG-13 rating.

Unfortunately, producers couldn't do much to salvage Mortdecai

As for the R-rating that Lionsgate likely believed limited the box-office take of "Mortdecai," a case could be made it wasn't entirely earned. The historically dodgy Motion Picture Association of America tagged the film with the rating largely for language and sexual material, despite the film arguably boasting little more than most PG-13 action flicks. It also bore considerably less graphic violence than such fare. Still, there were many who applauded Lionsgate for releasing the adult-focused film into theaters specifically with an adult audience in mind.

It's tough to say for sure whether the R-rating "Mortdecai" hit theaters with doomed it to box office oblivion. But moviegoers who've seen the film, and bestowed upon it a 30% Fresh rating, might be quick to point out "Mortdecai" just isn't a very good movie. And as Mark Kermode wrote in his scathing one-star review, Depp's performance in the title role is a big reason for the film's failure. "Compared to the mustachioed gurning going on here, Depp's Captain Jack Sparrow was a study in bleak Bergmanesque understatement," Kermode wrote.

An inherently bad central performance is obviously not the sort of issue a little creative re-cutting can solve. Though the official numbers remain unknown regarding the home video take of "Mortdecai," the film's enduring legacy as one of the worst movies of Johnny Depp's career would seem to confirm re-cutting the flick in a more teen-friendly fashion didn't exactly turn the tide regarding its commercial (or critical) viability.