Clue came out in 1985. Starring Medeline Kahn, Tim Curry, Christopher Lloyd, and Michael McKean among a cadre of others, the movie had more going for it than one would expect, being based on a board game and all.
And ya know what? It was also better than it had any right to be. The movie maintained all the board game elements from the characters to the rooms, the secret passages and the murder weapons. Yet it somehow managed to make fun of itself in a way that never became overly self-aware.
The plot is simple. Six guests are invited to a creepy old mansion. None of them knows who has invited them. Turns out these people are being blackmailed, and when their blackmailer turns up dead, the group must work together to out the killer before the cops show up, start asking questions, and reveal all of their deepest darkest secrets.
It’s a quite clever setup, when you think about it. In one fell swoop, you give everyone a motive and a reason not to call the cops.
The movie’s real strength, though, lies not in its complicated-but-rail-thin plot; it’s in the comedy’s slow build.
At the beginning, everyone is stone-faced and serious. The jokes lie in the atmosphere–lightning striking at the right moments, the absurdly creepy mansion, and the overly proper exchanges. This makes the little one-liners even funnier.
Once the murders start, though, the characters become more and more unhinged until we end with everyone sprinting through the house to keep up with Curry’s Wadsworth as he reenacts the crimes in detail.
At first you get the feeling you are watching some dry, subtle, dark comedy. By about half-way through, you realize it’s a farce. And one of the best-done farces in recent memory, complete with sight-gags, physical comedy, and some of the most classic-feeling comic dialogue since Preston Sturges (okay, maybe I’m going a little overboard, but it’s good).
If this movie’s greatness was ever in doubt, the multiple “whodunnit” endings solidify its place as comic gold.
But back-to-back, like they are on video, they put the cherry on the top of an already hilarious film. When you realize that almost any of the guests could have committed the crimes…when you see the set-up and double crossing…it makes the whole farce all the more ridiculous.
Which brings me to the question…what direction is our good friend Gore Verbinski going to take his newly announced film version of the game in? Most likely he will ignore the original adaptation all together and reinvent the movie completely.
Or maybe not. Anyone who has seen the director’s underrated farce Mousehunt will see that the director understands, enjoys, and is very good at “farce” as a genre. Couple that with the more ridiculous elements of the Pirates of the Caribbean films (I’m looking at you, wheel-enclosed-sword-fight), and the possibility of Gore expanding on the original film’s farcical elements seems more possible.
I hope he loves the original movie. I hope he “gets it,” and I hope he brings his absurdist sensibilities to the table with this film. Hell, bring Curry back as the aging butler. Clue as a serious film in any way will probably not work, so stick with the insanity. They got it right the first go-round, in my opinion.
You can buy Clue on DVD HERE.