Directed by Jonathan Lynn
Starring Tim Curry, Michael McKean, and Madeline Kahn
Review by Jon Kissel
As theoretically interesting as it might have been to see Clue in the 80’s, knowing that you’ve only seen one third of its versions, Lynn and Landis might as well have put together ten conclusions for all it matters. The issue that spoofs so often run into is that a successful film can’t just be a series of references or gags ungrounded to any recognizable human behavior. Either the comedy itself is unimpeachable, like in Naked Gun, or what’s being spoofed is fully committed to, like in Walk Hard. Regarding the former, the comedy is dreadful in Clue, consisting of pratfalls, the perceived ickiness of besuited gay men, and the prominence of the maid’s cleavage. What minimal grins are generated come from Curry’s and Madeline Kahn’s general eccentricity as opposed to the material itself. As for the latter, the reveals are coincidences and outright lies told by the cinematography. Professor Plum wasn’t just out of frame, he was off candle-sticking someone’s skull. Curry’s endless explanation is little more than a series of characters running offscreen during a distraction, which gives them time to murder someone and race back before the main group notices. Ultimately, the multiple endings are exactly as random as playing actual Clue, where the culprit is randomly drawn from a deck.
I’ve got a big 80’s movies gap in my film-watching career. When patching those holes, I can recognize how something would’ve worked much better if I had seen it in my youth as opposed to my adulthood (Ferris Bueller, Major League). Other times, I can see what the fuss was all about (Breakfast Club). With Clue, I’m getting confirmation that the 80’s simply weren’t that great a time for culture. Comedy was often low-hanging and lazy, and doesn’t hold up for both PC reasons and because joke-writing has simply improved in depth and complexity. Clue is a deserved failure of a film, and its cult should drink the figurative Kool-Aid. D