Jonathan Lynn, USA, 1985, 94 min.
I think the reason no one made a film out of a board game for almost 20 years was because the best one was taken. “Clue”, the game, is an exercise in trying to find the identity of a murderer, the murder weapon, and the murder location. And at the end of the game it doesn’t really matter what those were because the joy is in playing.
That same idea translates to the movie. A group of colorfully named eccentric characters are gathered together in an old mansion for reasons unknown. And for more reasons unknown, characters start dying. Who is the killer? What is the murder weapon? Who is the next victim? Does it matter?
Just like the game, it doesn’t. But that is not a bad thing because the joy of the film is watching all of this happen. Mostly, because of the humor. The subject matter is dark and disturbing, but it doesn’t feel that way at all. Everything is played for laughs and slapstick.
Good slapstick comes from good performers. And this film is full of them. Madeline Kahn, Christopher Lloyd, Michael McKean, Martin Mull, Eileen Brennan, Lesley Ann Warren, and of course Tim Curry. They act the absurd scenarios with energy, and deliver the zingers with conviction. Tim curry, as always, is a highlight as the butler who goes from very calm and controlled to very manic and off-the-wall. You can’t argue that Tim Curry doesn’t have range!
The story (by John Landis!) is actually pretty clever. But it’s inherently just a logic puzzle. And it goes by quickly enough that you don’t get a chance to solve it, and its distracting enough so you aren’t annoyed by its repetitiveness. But the best part is that the whole cast gets into it, which brings the audience into it as well. The whole experience is just good fun, with murder!