Clue: Movie Review

Clue is a 1985 comedy written by Jonathan Lynn. The story is credited to Lynn himself and to John Landis, and the producer is none other than Debra Hill. And with the likes of Tim Curry and Christopher Lloyd, no one can say that there aren’t any big names involved!

Clue is considered to be the first film based on a boardgame and the attention to detail with which many of the elements of the game have been included in the movie is indeed remarkable. They include the names of the characters, the colors of their pawns (the same as the cars with which everyone arrives at the villa), the rooms where the plot takes place, the murder weapons…

Yet for me this is a classic case in which the end result is sub-par, despite the talents involved. The main problem, in my opinion, is a plot which in the end turns out to be little more than an excuse to get the characters moving around the house. Wadsworth the Butler (Tim Curry), Mrs. Peacock (Eileen Brennan), Mrs. White (Madeline Kahn), Professor Plum (Christopher Lloyd), Mr. Green (Michael McKean), the sexy Ms. Scarlet (Lesley Ann Warren) and Yvette’s bursting breast (Colleen Camp), just to name some of them, interact with each other in a surreal atmosphere in which many of the dialogues have no meaning and in which most elements are introduced just to be able to justify the existence of three different endings (which actually were even four – the fourth, deemed too macabre, was eliminated).

Many details work with one of the final explanations but are lost in another, in a game that in the minds of the film’s creators had to take people to the cinema several times to discover alternative solutions, but which in reality did not appeal to anyone: the film, in fact, was a box office flop. As mentioned, therefore, it cannot be said that the plot works. I wasn’t even a little surprised to discover that the immense Tom Stoppard worked for a year on the screenplay but then, unable to write a convincing one, he abandoned the project and returned the money he had been paid for it. Thinking about it, the source material certainly didn’t help: a boardgame about a mysterious murder didn’t offer many ideas for a story!

The other problem of the movie is the inevitable comparison with Murder By Death (1976), a film that practically starts from the same premise and equally wants to make fun of the film genre of the mysterious and investigative thriller, but which is infinitely more successful in terms of characters, plot and sense of humor. Between the two films, I have no doubt which one I would watch a hundred times, and it’s definitely not Clue.

Of course, there are some funny jokes in Jonathan Lynn’s film, such as the (political) red herring present in all three endings and lots of puns here and there. Nothing particularly memorable, though, at least for my taste.

Needless to say, the entire cast does their job well with over the top acting in which histrionic Tim Curry is the master of ceremonies and where the girls for the most part seem to be there just to show off their breasts and make Christopher Lloyd’s eyes pop out (even more). But the dialogues don’t offer anything too interesting, which is unforgivable since they accompany a story that ultimately doesn’t work at all. For example, guests cannot escape from the villa because of a furious Doberman… but it disappears at some point since both the motorist and the preacher and the dancer can arrive undisturbed? Well… I understand that for many it’s a real cult movie, but I’m afraid I don’t consider it as such. Ciao!



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