Movie Review: Clue

Posted: February 1, 2011 in Uncategorized

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Clue (1985/Paramount/Jonathan Lynn)

A couple of weeks ago, I got the urge to watch Clue for what would be the first time since I was maybe fourteen. That’s twenty years of deep-seated nostalgia for this movie to combat. I really liked this movie when I was about twelve or so and that should make it an instant sell for me, right? Wrong. Sadly, nostalgia actually makes the trip harder, since I seem to be immune to the effect and far more critical of my old loves. So as an adult, how did Clue hold up? Surprisingly well, actually. Having spent the last 20 years reading mystery stories and watching mystery movies and TV shows, I now have a greater appreciation for the movie than I did when twelve. Let us discuss some of the better points (as well as some things that just didn’t work) over the next few paragraphs. Oh, and I’m going to spoil the hell out of this thing, but if you haven’t actually seen Clue yet then I’m not sure what you’ve been doing with your life.


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Champagne Bucocktail!

The setting is quite brilliant really. By setting the movie knee deep in the era of McCarthyism, the movie makers are able to produce a sense of paranoia required for such a story of blackmail and murder. I know it’s the era of McCarthy because one of his hearings is being shown on the TV in the kitchen. Since the conceit is to give the board game of Clue a reason to exist, this does nicely. Each character has an assigned alias, which accounts for the strange names, each of them is being blackmailed by Mr. Boddy, which accounts for one of them killing him, the rest of the party tries to work out who the killer is, which gives you the mystery aspect. The time frame also allows for a sense of the… shall we call it the golden age of mystery? While not all great mysteries are set before 1958, a great number are and if you want to tell a really classic story you sort of need this time period or something before it. Besides, the outfits, cars and other trappings give you a great sense of being somewhere else and seeing something special.

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Don’t look at me, I’m as lost as you are.

I’m sort of amazed at the range of comedy held within this movie. Low things like slapstick, and jokes about stepping in dog shit are mingled with satire, hyperbole, political humor, word play, sexual humor, and all the other things that make us laugh. There is a fairly staggering wide net cast in the comedic sense, which very likely one of the reasons that I still find it funny. I don’t find the dog shit joke very funny any more, but I am more able to appreciate the pace of the dénouement, which has to be the most manic in history. I also get more jokes now than I did when young. While my sense of humor has changed over the years, so Clue has reveled to me more comedic moments than it did in the past. The jokes are also fairly rapid fire if you get all of them, often several styles of comedy will land one on top of the other, it’s a scattershot effect that works for me. While I won’t go over all the jokes I like, I will point out how endlessly amused that none of the characters are wearing the color that their character is associated with. The closest that anyone comes is that Mrs. Peacock wears a lot of turkey feathers, which I suppose is at least a bird.

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Stay classy Hollywood

A large part of the comedy is in the casting. All the suspects, save one, were played by people who were well known in comedy at this time. Each of them are playing to their strengths, and they all shine, save that one. Since each of them was fairly well known, they’re all able to play in a way that was known both to them and the public watching. Tim Curry as Wadsworth plays brilliantly as well, which is interesting considering the same year he played the Lord of Darkness in Legend. I’m just amazed because I thought that roll was played far earlier. Leslie Ann Warren is the only one of the main suspects who I’ve never seen regarded as much of a comedian. She plays the part fine, she’s never lacking in her performance, but her jokes don’t work as well as everyone else’s. As ensemble casts go though, this is one of the better ones you’re ever going to see in a comedy.

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I am NOT a sweet transvestite in this movie!

So how does this movie stack up as an adaptation of what the credits call Parker Brothers World Famous Game? Well, everything from the game is introduced and is done so in a reasonable fashion. Mr. Boddy introduces the six weapons, the house has all the requisite rooms and even contains the two secret passages that take characters across the house. The blackmail story allows the motive and opportunity. To raise the bar on the comedy, more characters are introduced for the purpose of killing them. The best killing is probably the last when a singing telegram girl is shot mere seconds after she’s first seen on the screen. This allows for the final ending of the movie. Did I mention the three endings?

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Soooo, okay. No more “That’s what she said” jokes. Gotcha!

Okay, so this movie has three endings. As I understand it, the first two are false, but they work with the given evidence. It’s really only the third ending that really works. In the third ending, of course, they all did it. Oh, yeah, spoilers for a twenty six year old movie are in this review. When recreating the events of the evening, Wadsworth turns off the electricity, which creates a cut for the three endings. In ending #1 Miss Scarlett did it, with the help of Yvette, the maid. In #2 Mrs. Peacock did it, all by herself. In the third ending though, everyone but Mr. Green kills someone, which goes with a joke of Green constantly stating he didn’t do it. Wadsworth, The Butler, explains that actually, he is Mr. Boddy. At that moment, Mr. Green shoots him, which means he killed Mr. Boddy, in the hall, with the revolver. Now! Mr. Green is supposed to be a homosexual who would loose his job if his proclivities became known. Now the last line is him telling his FBI boss “I’m going to go home and sleep with my wife.” which I’d always interpreted as meaning he wasn’t actually gay, that he was a plant in the situation. However, Syd has a different idea. At the end, she looked at me and proudly announced “The queer wins!” and went on to explain that in her interpretation, Mr. Green actually is a homosexual, and in killing Mr. Boddy, he is now able to keep his secret life a secret. That is why Green killed Mr. Boddy, instead of arresting or simply injuring him. It’s an interesting idea and leaves me with a new level for jokes to be landed on.

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Group Shot

I conclusion, I found that Clue still works quite well, just in a different way than it did when I was a kid. If you’ve been wondering if it’s still worth watching, yeah, you could maybe watch it. If you’ve never seen it, go ahead and grab it and give it a viewing, you should be pleasantly surprised. Either way, you can watch this and know that it has my seal of approval. Go ahead and pick up a copy for yourself.

seal of approval

Official Score:
81 Degrees on the Graffiti Bridge Scale.
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