Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Second Age Reviews Backlog 11: Clue

A lot of comedy based movies are helped along by their lead actor having fun with their role. Robin Williams in particular, specializes in this. If he's having fun in a lead role, he can make a good movie great (Good Morning Vietnam) a solid enough movie good (Mrs. Doubtfire) a mediocre movie solid (Jumanji) or even a bad movie worth watching (Man of the Year). Hell, the first 2 Rush Hour films are fairly generic buddy cop movies directed by a largely talentless man pushed into worthiness almost entirely by they chemistry and fun the two lead actors are having.

But Tim Curry is a breed apart in this respect. Not only are his own performances buoyed by him having fun, but the entire production seems to feed on his energy, making the entire movie better than it might have been otherwise. Technically, the prime example of this is his star making performance as Dr. Frankenfurter in The Rocky Horror Picture Show, but there's also heavy evidence of it in his role as the Butler in Clue.

A quick note: As it stands there is TECHNICALLY a mystery to Clue. Since there are three endings wandering around (all of which you'll see if you get a DVD or even VHS) the mystery is clearly not the strongest in the world. But since I don't feel like giving anyone the opportunity to yell at me, consider this a SPOILER WARNING.

Anywho, the movie is, as the title suggests, a film version of the largely overrated board game, though the connection is essentially in-name-only. There's only one attempt to crack wise at the film's origins and while all the characters bear their in-game names, they are presented as alias', although the first victim is unironically named Mr. Body, so who the fuck knows? Moving on, the character's are presented as blackmail victims of the aforementioned Mr. Body. A quick bit of convoluted nonsense clearly designed to get the ball rolling happens in which the only way to prevent being exposed for the things they're being blackmailed for is to kill the Butler and Mr. Body hands them all weapons and flicks off the lights. Someone kills him instead and the plot, full of mystery, intrigue and cleavage begins.

I want to stress, regardless of the fact that I just made it out to be a mystery, the movie is a COMEDY and in that regard it succeeds in the most important aspect: It's funny. In fact it's damn near hysterical. The comedy is a solid mix of physical comedy, pitch dark gallows humor, political satire, mystery parody, and sexual innuendo. If all that sounds like it might be a difficult mix, it is but it pulls it off rather admirably. A few of the beats require an at least working knowledge of what's being riffed on and a couple jokes fall flat (including one which, unfortounately shows up in all 3 endings, once by force) but it never lags and is enjoyable throughout.

On the acting side, apart from the mentioned earlier performance by Tim Curry, the standout on the male side is Christopher Lloyd (who you should all recognize as Doc Brown from the Back to the Future trilogy) as Professor Plum, doing a solid mix of the lecherous and overly knowledgeable Professor stereotypes. On the female side the most notable is (Eileen Brennan) as Ms. Scarlet, who is clearly enjoying herself throughout. Special mention goes to (Madeline Kahn) as Mrs. White, who some of you might recognize from Blazing Saddles or maybe Young Frankenstein. Everyone else is doing fine, except for Mrs. Peacock, who never really manages to find a wheelhouse to stick to. Of course it's all moot since in the third act since Tim Curry jumps in to steal the show with over the top physical comedy and overacting, but to their credit, no one really tries to steal it back, content to sit back and act as comic foils.

I realllllly don't feel like going deep into technical details on this film since it's a comedy, so the soundtrack and music guys are doing the most to add to the film, rest of it is fine. There are flaws, mostly from the script side. The script is convoluted and clearly intended to leave room for the 3 filmed and 4 planned endings. And, as is par for the course for having so many different styles of humor running around, they occasionally grate against each, especially toward the end when the sex humor and political satire begin to combine.

At the end of the day, Clue is not a real world satire like Dr. Strangelove or Life of Brian nor an artistic triumph disguised as a comedy like O Brother, Where Art Thou?. It's not a high minded spoof like Airplane! or a genre commentary like Blazing SaddlesClue is not setting out to make you think, but it is setting out to make you laugh. And in that respect it succeeds admirably so you should probably give it a look.

Okay, quick couple notes before I'm off. A few (okay, 2) people have messaged me and asked why I so rarely do my more relevant Reviews of Gondor series, based on current movies. Well frankly, it's a bunch of factors the most of which is that well...I don't go to the theater for current movies as much as I'd like to. I'm anti-social, fairly broke and have a fear of crowds all of which tend to steer me away from movies I can usually catch on video. On the other hand going to my indie theater means smaller crowds, cheaper seats, supporting a nice small theater and I usually have a friend with me. I generally watch current movies after-the-fact on DVD and I dislike reviewing on DVD. So if you're wondering...you weren't? Okay sorry.

Okay second, school starts up for me in a couple weeks. This means less time and fewer cult movies showing at my indie theater and I'll be less inclined to try to compete for attention on a forum. So as of right now I'm planning to do 2 more reviews on here and then move the whole of Arenor productions to a private blog (yeah yeah like it'll be easier to get attention there). As this is my private blog, I finally managed to do it, and as you've probably noticed there are something like 15 backlogged reviews and this is the last one. So if you're a new reader, welcome to my blog and enjoy.

Next on Second Age Reviews: National Lampoon's Animal House

Elessar is a 20 year old Alaskan born cinephile and he was really sad that none of the characters tried to assume the Butler did it.

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