Wednesday, September 23, 2009

“What do you mean, “Don’t deny it?” I’m not denying anything!”

Who here has ever had a burning desire to see a game made into a movie? Okay, hands down. Now, who’s had a burning desire to see a board game made into a movie? Considerably less this time. Well, for you stalwarts holding out for big screen adaptations of “Hungry, Hungry Hippos,” “Candyland” and “Battleship” there is one spot of hope for you: the 1985 mystery/comedy Clue: The Movie (or Cluedo for those silly monarchists across the pond).

So it’s the 1950s and a group of unrelated characters are invited to a mansion where it is revealed that they are all being blackmailed by the same man, a Mr. Boddy. Then the murders start with the main characters all trying to figure out who did the killing. Hilarity ensues and so do three alternate endings.

Mr. Boddy: Anybody who knows the game Clue knows that it’s a bout a murder. The stiff’s name is appropriately “Mr. Boddy” and Lee Ving isn’t (alive) in the movie very long to get anything other than to make him a smug bastard who you’re just waiting to get killed. He’s apparently blackmailing all of the major characters, so they all have motives to kill him.

Mrs. Peacock: Eileen Brennan plays a senator’s wife. Haughty and easily flustered, she chain smokes when nervous. She’s really great at overreacting to everything going on.

Mrs. White: Madeline Kahn plays a rich widow who’s outlived two husbands already. Kahn’s always solid comedic timing is incredible in this film.

Miss Scarlet: Lesley Ann Warren plays the vamp-like madam of a Washington DC brothel. Miss Scarlet frequently engages in fast paced belligerent banter with just about everyone.

Professor Plum: Christopher Lloyd plays a lecherous scientist with connections to the UN. He’s fairly understated in the film (compared to Doc Brown) but always manages to stare at women’s chests with a completely straight face.

Colonel Mustard: Martin Mull plays a high placed military man who’s been a frequent visitor to Miss Scarlet’s business. Compared to the rest of the actors, he’s a bit of a weak link. Not terrible, but there’s something in his delivery that doesn’t work for me.

Mr. Green: Michael McKean plays a government employee blackmailed for being homosexual. Goes through the movie repeatedly insisting that “he didn’t do it!” in reference to the murders.

Yvette: Colleen Camp plays a maid with an outrageous French accent and a more outrageous outfit. This film probably helped contribute to the maid fetishes of millions of males. Um, not that I would know anything about that…

Wadsworth: At last we come to the film’s badass. In a movie filled to the brim with talented actors trying to out-ham one another in the scenery chewing department, but none of them, none, out-ham Tim Curry as the butler. Curry throws everything he’s got into a character who goes from collected organizer and butler to a frantic whirlwind of exposition and then back again. Curry doesn’t just steal the show, he owns it from the very start.

This was British writer/director Jonathan Lynn’s (The Whole Nine Yards and, err, the 90s’ Sgt. Bilko movie) first feature film. The film does a great job setting up the atmosphere before knocking it down by the parody of the whole thing. Things are well lit and shot, though the film does have a “theatrical” feel to it in a lot of places that works for the movie. Still, I wouldn’t mind living in a mansion like that.

John Landis (who’s done a ton of films) and Jonathan Lynn wrote a script that was far better than anything a movie based on a board game had any right to be. They invent a fairly reasonable conceit for all of these characters and weapons to be in the same house, create characters that their actors can run with, and the banter is rapid fire awesomesauce. Campy, yes, but deliberately so. The movie even has three endings which aired separately in theaters (though the DVD has all three for your convenience).

John Morris does a very good job with the original score. There isn’t really anything theme that stands out, but its all great for the mock tense atmosphere of the film. A couple 50’s rock & roll songs round out the soundtrack quite nicely.

Watching Clue gives the impression that everybody on set was having an awesome time making it. The movie’s a light, airy comedy that can’t take itself seriously and neither should the audience. Its become a cult classic because of the sharp writing and even sharper comedic delivery of the actors, and its one of my favorite comedies. Definitely worth a look.

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