The studio behind Johnny Depp's latest film isn't too keen on critics seeing it.

Denver-based reviewers won’t see “Mortdecai,” the wacky new film starring Depp, Gwyneth Paltrow, Ewan McGregor and Paul Bettany, before its Jan. 23 opening.

 

It isn’t the first time a studio held a movie back from film critics. It’s commonplace, particularly in the deep, dark month of January. Low-budget horror movies are often kept far, far away from critics prior to their theatrical release dates.

But a Depp feature with such an impressive cast? It’s clear the powers that be don’t envision “Mortdecai” as the next “Pirates”-level franchise for the mercurial star. In fact, should “Mortdecai” fall on its mustachioed face it would mark Depp’s latest misfire.

Consider his recent film choices – “Tusk” (a small role in disguise), “Transcendence,” “The Lone Ranger,” “Dark Shadows” and “The Rum Diary.” It’s a Whitman’s Sampler of genres, with Depp playing up his oddball appeal in all save “Transcendence.” Yet none connected with the public at large.

He’s beguiling as “Into the Wood’s” hungry wolf, but if you blink you may just miss his tiny role in the recent musical hit.

It’s easy to say we’re growing bored with his slick tics, accents and eagerness to disappear into fabulous characters. There’s likely some truth to it. But being a movie star isn’t just about having talent to burn. It’s selecting the best co-conspirators to bring new stories to life.

At his box office prime, Arnold Schwarzenneger shrewdly teamed up with directors James Cameron and Ivan Reitman, moves which cemented his star status. Michael Keaton, following the mega-success of “Batman,” couldn’t hold on to his A-list standing thanks to a series of mediocre features.

Depp may reclaim his box office mojo when the next “Pirates of the Caribbean” sequel washes ashore. That tentpole shows little sign of fading. Yet the actor is having trouble wowing us without Jack Sparrow’s heavy eye-liner and boozy banter.