I had always seen Clue (1985) as Tim Curry’s ‘other movie’. That it really showcased him doing what he did best, which was being totally outlandish, and truly owning a part with incredible energy. Sadly, even he could not save the movie.
The movie starts slow, with uncomfortable moments between him and Col. Mustard, and doesn’t really get going until about two thirds of the way through, when Curry zanies it up.
It feels like the movie never really knew what it wanted to be…It wasn’t really a ‘Plot’, even with the third ending, with Wadsworth as Mr Boddy being the protagonist. Half of the jokes were jokes were British wordplay, the other half were dog poop and boob jokes. Some reviews have commented that the film was saved by its excellent actors. Their reaction shots to each other, in caricature (rather than in character) showed a great attention to detail on their part, or perhaps the director’s.
However, somehow, the play never really fit together. It felt like there was too much explanation of things happening, rather than watching the things happening, or having events lead up to them, like there were a bunch of scenes which didn’t really interact much. It was missing useful establishing shots, or something that would allow the audience to construct a mental image of what was going on overall.
Clue did innovate with the three endings, and it might have been the first movie based on a boardgame.
(Another reviewer mentioned that it felt much more like a play, with the overacting for the back of the auditorium one would expect from that.)
But fundamentally, we are never given a reason to care about the actors, or anything in the movie. Also, it has a problem many works of fiction have, in that they never use slang to talk about “nuclear physics”, or other long phrases that people probably talk about a lot.
All of this is in stark contrast to Ghostbusters (1984), another film I remembered with great fondness from my childhood. Bill Murray stole the show in this one, with his terrific improv. There also was a much better sense of pacing throughout, and the director knew much better what to put in and what to leave out. I just had a lot of heart, whether from Dan Akroyd’s Stay Puft speech to Harold Ramis’ “terrified beyond the capacity for rational thought”.
What is my takeaway? I had such fond memories of each, but I left Clue with disappointment at what it could have been, and Ghostbusters with a sense of satisfaction that it was all it could have been at the time.