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Clue (1985)

by on 2010/03/24

Clue is what happens when two otherwise entertaining properties get mashed up into a single — unfortunately less effective — whole.

In this case, some of the properties I have in mind are Agatha Christie’s And Then There Were None crossed with Sylvester Stallone’s much (and unfairly) maligned farce Oscar.  Another way to look at it is as a Choose Your Own Adventure House on Haunted Hill.  The producers themselves probably hope we’ll think of it as the Parker Brothers board game brought to life.

However you view it, Clue is almost, but not quite, any of those things.

A group of six strangers have been summoned to remote mansion by a mysterious host who may or may not be the pseudonymous Mr. Boddy or his butler Wadsworth.  The guests are assigned aliases (corresponding to the original board game) to protect their identities, for they are all being blackmailed.  In fact, their mysterious host intends to offer them a way out of their financial predicament . . . or does he?  To say any more would ruin the ending.

Or, rather, endings.

While there have been a handful of movies with multiple endings in their theatrical releases — Run Lola Run, Sliding Doors, and the Wayne’s Worlds Clue possesses a unique gimmick among them:  it resolves itself with only one of its possible endings shown, randomly selected, or dependent on which theatre you’d visit.

Regardless of the ending, the path to reach it is a frantic mess.  Entertaining, yes, but still a mess.  Of course, it would be difficult not to entertain given the amazing cast of solid character actors on display here, among them:  Eileen Brennan (Sting), Madeline Kahn (Young Frankenstein), Christopher Lloyd (Back to the Future), Michael McKean (This Is Spinal Tap), Martin Mull (Larry Sanders), and Lesley Ann Warren (Mission Impossible).

Unfortunately, while I usually enjoy the lead, Tim Curry, here the story requires him to spend the entire second act of the movie pantomiming the first in hyperactive slapstick. Ostensibly, he is explaining “whodunit” (and how) but I have a sneaking suspicion the filmmakers are deliberately trying to fill time and confuse the audience in a desperate bid to accept whatever ending is foisted upon them.

For all its novelty, I’m not surprised the movie was met with a middling reception on its release.  The setup, while not great, at least shows potential.  But to sit through an abysmal middle in order to reach only one of three possible endings, well, let’s just say I’d feel cheated.  On video, the audience enjoys the luxury of selecting from multiple endings, but it still feels like too little too late.  I think I speak for most viewers when I say that I’d rather see one ending well done than several lacking in luster.

* * *

Rated PG for adult situations and violence

94 minutes

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