New York Times Movie Review - Friday, December 13, 1985 (Copy)
This overly harsh article appeared in the New York Times on Clue's opening day:
Screen: 'Clue,' From Game to Film by Janet Maslin
Like the board game on which it is based, the movie, "Clue" is most fun in its early stages. The setting-up of the game, which entails introducing a group of suspects and their chief victim-to-be and confining all of them to a Baroque mansion is the only part of the film that is remotely engaging. After that, it begins to drag. And though it takes only 87 minutes to arrive at one of its three different solutions, it has long since worn out its welcome by the denouement.
Even at the beginning, there are indications that "Clue," which opens today at the Coronet and other theaters, will lack the drawing room sophistication that might make it appalling. For instance, the first moments of the film are given over to a running dog-poop joke that has every guest making a great point of wiping his or her shoes upon entering the house. And there are plenty of stupid double-entendres to follow, not to mention the repeated and conspicuous ogling of Yvette, the French maid (played by Colleen Camp). These touches, aside from giving the film a vulgarity it doesn't need, help to make it mildly unsuitable for the young audiences that might like it best. "Clue" is substantially smuttier than its PG rating would indicate.
Production notes for the film reveal that Jonathan Lynn, its writer and director, screened Howard Hawks's "His Girl Friday" for the actors in order to help set the mood. This cannot help but have discouraged all concerned, since there is so little genuine wit to be found in "Clue." The film does have a speedy pace, but that could hardly be confused with Mr. Hawks's madcap humor; instead, it involves a lot of running around through secret passages, and some slapstick routines involving dead bodies. The actors are meant to function as an ensemble, but that merely means that they often repeat the same line simultaneously.
Among the players, only Lesley Ann Warren, wearing a skin-tight outfit manages to slink through the film with any semblance of merriment. Madeline Kahn makes a sleek Mrs. White, and Christopher Lloyd a suitably oddball Professor Plum; Martin Mull makes a stolid Colonel Mustard and Michael McKean is saddled with some unfortunate dialogue as Mr. Green, who is presented as a timid homosexual. Lee Ving looks more convincing than he sounds as the ill-fated Mr. Boddy. Eileen Brennan, looking ludicrous as the dowdy Mrs. Peacock, is only the most obvious of many indications of directorial misogyny. And Tim Curry, as the butler Wadsworth, prances through the film with a giddiness that seems quite unwarranted by what goes on around him.
As for the mystery, it must be kept sufficiently scrambled and indefinite to allow for the three different endings Mr. Lynn has created ("Clue" is being shown in different versions in different theaters). While the multiple-ending device does not seem strictly a gimmick, neither is it very helpful in allowing for a clear and interesting solution to the small crime wave the screenplay sets in motion. All three endings contain the line "Communism was just a red herring," since the film is set in 1954 and makes passing references to McCarthyism and to J. Edgar Hoover, but that seems quite irrelevant to the matters at hand. Each of the endings features Howard Hesseman in a brief cameo role.