CLUE (1985)

Review by Derrick Carter

Running Time: 1 hour 34 minutes

MPAA Rating: PG

Directed by: Jonathan Lynn

Written by: Jonathan Lynn & John Landis

(based on the board game CLUE)

Starring: Tim Curry, Christopher Lloyd, Martin Mull, Madeline Kahn, Lesley Ann Warren, Eileen Brennan, Michael McKean, Colleen Camp & Lee Ving

Even back in the 80s, Hollywood was trying to turn anything into a movie. 2012’s BATTLESHIP and 2014’s OUIJA were nothing new, because 1985’s CLUE was the first board game to get the big screen treatment. However, this film didn’t fare too well in its original theatrical run. It was considered to be a box office flop and received negative reviews. Still, it has since gone on to become a cult classic. Though this movie has its fans, CLUE is merely an okay comedy.

It’s a dark and stormy night in 1954 New England. A group of six strangers have been invited to a strange mansion. The guests have been instructed to use pseudonyms in order to avoid giving away their real identities. They all have one thing in common and the person holding that secret is the smarmy Mr. Boddy (Lee Ving). As the evening goes on, Mr. Boddy winds up dead and more murders soon follow. Who is the killer?

The titular board game’s cards are brought to life by an ensemble cast. Some of these performers are given more to do than others, but none of them are bland. One of the film’s biggest highlights is Christopher Lloyd as perverted psychiatrist Professor Plum, while Martin Mull is comically over-the-top as Colonel Mustard. Madeline Kahn plays Miss White like a short-haired, widowed Morticia Addams. Eileen Brennan is far more annoying than funny as the loud-mouthed, obnoxious Mrs. Peacock. Lesley Ann Warren is fun as Ms. Scarlet, though she mostly plays off other characters and doesn’t get much of her own time to shine. I’ll mention Michael McKean’s Mr. Green in a moment.

The film’s screenplay also throws two original characters into the mix. These being: Tim Curry’s Wadsworth and Colleen Camp’s Yvette. The latter succeeds at being a sexy French maid, receiving a couple of decent chuckles. However, Tim Curry steals the show as butler Wadsworth. His scene-chewing line delivery and jovial demeanor elevates this film above its sloppily written script. Curry’s best scene lies in the finale, which features him frantically running/yelling through the house to explain the sequence of events that we’ve already seen…all leading up to the reveal of the murderer.

CLUE had a cool gimmick upon its original theatrical release. Different theaters received the movie with one of three possible endings. There were originally four filmed endings, but the director scrapped the last one. The modern cut of the film has all three endings included (tied together with humorous title cards). However, only one of them makes any damn sense, while the others open up gaping plot holes and lapses in logic. I know this movie is primarily a light-hearted comedy, but it also sells itself as a murder-mystery. It’s only marginally successful at being the former and not very good at being the latter.

As a comedy, CLUE’s humor ranges from biting dialogue to macabre silliness. Besides the already-mentioned Tim Curry’s zany antics, Michael McKean’s Mr. Green delivers solid slapstick and gets one of the funniest closing lines in cinema history. Unfortunately, CLUE has a tendency to run its jokes into the ground with repeated punchlines and scenes that drag for far too long. This is evident from a dog crap gag that’s played for a total six(!) possible laughs and only two of them work. More of these overlong moments also occur when characters split up to search the house and pose corpses in positions to fool a snooping police officer. These bits provide a few laughs at first and then become dull through their sheer length.

Don’t get me wrong. CLUE has its merits. I love the characters of Professor Plum, Wadsworth, and Mr. Green. This film has genuinely funny moments and throws a handful of clever twists at the viewer. However, the jokes tend to get milked for far too long and there are also some unnecessary twists that open up a series of plot holes. Only one of the three endings works too and, luckily, it’s the third ending that the film closes out on. CLUE is a fun watch, but suffers from lots of problems that are impossible to ignore.

Grade: B-

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