One of the biggest critical flops of 2012 has to be the misjudged Peter Berg’s action romp Battleship. With a hodgepodge cast, including Rihanna, Liam Neeson and Taylor Kitsch, it was pretty much unbearable from beginning to end. Has Hollywood become so stifled of good original storytelling that it has resulted in adapting boardgames? With Hungry Hippos and Monopoly on the way, I was stunned to discover that Jonathan Lynn (Yes Minister, Nuns on the Run) kickstarted the trend with Clue (Cluedo, in the UK), a goofy farce rework of the classic ‘whodunnit?’ game.
Set in New England, 1954, it all kicks off with cackling thunder and torrential rain, as Tim Curry – playing totally to-type as the stuffy English butler Wadsworth – enters a huge gothic mansion. From here, a series of invited guests, travelling under the pseudonyms of Col. Mustard, Mrs White, and the like, arrive for an evening’s dinner of self-discovery, blackmail and murder. Whose their dinner host? This central question becomes all the more fatal when they each seem to be dropping off like flies. Murder weapons including lead pipe, candlestick and the classic revolver, there’s a killer lurking in the study, billiard room and beyond, but who is it?
Co-written by eighties movie monolith John Landis (The Blues Brothers, American Werewolf in London), there’s a lot of flippant black humour in Clue‘s script, from bawdy sight gags, to wriggling corpses. It takes great influence not only from the Hasbro board game, but from the superior seventies comedy/mystery caper Murder By Death, starring Peter Falk. The ensemble cast try their hardest to emanate the same magic and momentum. Curry is great, putting in a sublime physical performance as the sleuthing butler keeping the guess-who game rolling. Whilst Michael McKean, directly following peerless mockumentary This Is Spinal Tap, exhibits a great slapstick streak as the former state official-cum-timid homosexual Mr. Green.
Never given enough clues to figure out to who the murderer could be, meaning that Lynn gives us three disparate “here’s how it could have happened” endings. But by this point, we’re exhausted, just waiting for the gambit to be up.
Irregardless of some brilliantly thespian performances and welcomingly frenzied pacing, something doesn’t quite stack up in the entertainment department with Clue. It’s certainly worth a roll of the dice, but I’d much rather spend a rainy Sunday afternoon playing the original board game.