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(1985) ** 1/2 Pg
94 min. Paramount Pictures. Director: Jonathan Lynn. Cast: Eileen Brennan, Tim Curry, Madeline Kahn, Christopher Lloyd, Michael McKean, Martin Mull, Lesley Ann Warren.

/content/films/4416/1.jpgPitched something like the meth-addled comedy version of The House on Haunted Hill, Jonathan Lynn's Clue is the granddaddy of today's trend of movies based on board games (the woebegotten Battleship leading a charge that will include a Clue remake). This nutty little confection eschewed any one star—of the type guaranteed to open a picture—in favor of a crack ensemble. It's the only sensible approach to adapting a board game with its own famous ensemble: "Mrs. Peacock" (Eileen Brennan), "Mrs. White" (Madeline Kahn), "Professor Plum" (Christopher Lloyd), "Mr. Green" (Michael McKean), "Colonel Mustard" (Martin Mull), and "Miss Scarlet" (Lesley Ann Warren).

On the proverbial dark and stormy night, that list of suspects arrives one by one to a mansion administrated by a butler named Wadsworth (Tim Curry), on behalf of their blackmailing host, the ominously named "Mr. Boddy" (Lee Ving). Characters duly established, Boddy winds up dead, and fingers begin wildly pointing amongst the assembled guests, as well as Wadsworth, maid Yvette (Colleen Camp), and the cook (Kellye Nakahara). With more murders likely to be on the menu and the police due to arrive, there's a frantic urgency to solve the mystery. And there is a solution. In fact, infamously, there are three solutions, three different endings designed to encourage audiences to see the film again, with one of the other wrap-ups. (In its new Blu-ray release, one can watch all of the above, as well as the composite ending stringing together all three options.)

Curry gets the MVP award partly out of sheer volume of words (in all three finales, he delivers blisteringly fast summations while dashing about the mansion) and partly from his creative line delivery and Swiss-watch timing. Brennan is a certifiable hoot as the certifiable Peacock, and Lloyd, Warren, and Mull hold up their ends with consistent character work. Kahn has at least one flat-out hilarious moment (a guilty confession involving the phrase "Flames—on the side of my face") to top off a generally amusing turn; the same can be said for McKean, whose punchline to the best ending I will not ruin here: when it comes to memorable movie quotations, it's a keeper.

If Clue falls a bit short of the mark, it remains a likeable artifact of talented people giving a ridiculous task the old college try, taking the flimsy premise exactly as seriously as showbiz professionalism demands and no more (they're all keenly aware they aren't curing cancer). Lynn's screenplay—from a story credited to Lynn (Yes, Minister) and John Landis (The Blues Brothers)—has a dazzling efficiency about it, even when jokes fall flat, and his direction shows a theatrical flair for farce. That said, it's the performers who supply most of the comic verve and execute the impressive displays of rapid-fire delivery.

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Aspect ratios: 1.78:1

Number of discs: 1

Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio Mono

Street date: 8/7/2012

Distributor: Paramount Home Entertainment

Paramount gives Clue a satisfying hi-def Blu-ray upgrade that should entice first-time adopters, if not necessarily DVD-owning double-dippers. Picture quality has noticeably improved while eschewing intrusive digital sharpening. Contrast assists in bumping up detail and texture (including filmic texture), and color is truer. Shadow crush is a strike against the image, but there's no question the Blu-ray improves upon the DVD in every A/V category, including a lossless DTS-HD Master Audio Mono track that's as definitive as it is, by nature, limited in dynamic range.

New bonus features would have made this edition a slam dunk, but it only ports over the DVD features: the "Theatrical Trailer" (1:33, HD) and the obligatory alternate endings "A" (8:36, HD), "B" (8:47, HD) and "C" (7:24, HD). One can also choose any one of four viewing options for the feature: playback with one of the aforementioned endings (running 86 or 87 minutes), or with the "Trilogy" ending (96 minutes).

Review gear:
Panasonic Viera TC-P55VT30 55" Plasma 1080p 3D HDTV
Oppo BDP-93 Universal Network 3D Blu-ray Disc Player
Denon AVR2112CI Integrated Network A/V Surround Receiver
Pioneer SP-BS41-LR Bookshelf Speaker (2)
Pioneer SP-C21 Center Speaker
Pioneer SW-8 Subwoofer

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