Colonel Mustard, in the study, with…Nikola Tesla?

Did you know they made a new movie version of Clue? This teen-based version has no similarities to the great 1985 screwball comedy, not to mention the classic board game. It originally aired on TV in 2011 as a five-part miniseries, but has been edited together into a single feature for this DVD.

While at a charity event at a fancy hotel, six teenagers with nothing in common happen to witness a murder. The cops don’t believe them, so the plucky youngsters bad together to solve the case on their own. The murder’s just the tip of the iceberg, though, as our heroes uncover a mystery involving an ancient treasure with the power to change the entire world.

This movie is ridiculous. If you want a more detailed explanation of its ridiculousness, there’s no way to do that without going into spoiler mode, so…

SPOILERS!!!

In the bonus features, director Terry McDonough (An Adventure in Space and Time) says the idea was to make Clue something bigger than a group of characters confined to a single house. On that note, he’s succeeded, but I wonder if he and the show’s the other creators have gone too far in going outside the game’s basic concept.

The actual murder investigation only takes up about the first 20-30 minutes of the movie. From there, things take a turn and the characters are off on a treasure hunt. Here’s where things get really wonky. You know the candlestick from the game? Turns out it’s no ordinary candlestick. It contains a super-powerful battery invented by the famous Nikola Tesla. Not only can the candlestick potentially solve the world’s energy crisis, but it affects everybody’s phones as well. (Tesla was a visionary, sure, but could he really have predicted smartphones with such accuracy to know how to manipulate them remotely?) Basically, the movie transforms from a riff on Clue to a riff on National Treasure. Then things get even wonkier: There are not one, not two, but six secret conspiracies covertly hunting for the candlestick. They have familiar names like House of Plum, House of Mustard, House of Peacock, etc. Each one of the teen detectives has a connection to one of the houses, even though it looked to me like they all met purely by coincidence.

Okay, so the movie is cheesy and goofy. That doesn’t have to be bad. I love cheesy and goofy. What’s bad is how the movie is almost entirely plot-based. The mystery/treasure hunt is a simplistic plot, but it’s made to seem incredibly complicated by piling on twist after twist, and scene after scene of constant exposition. It’s all Tesla this and conspiracy that and hidden passages this and secret codes that and so on. It all adds to a lot of talk, and you’ll wonder why you should care.

The six teen heroes are introduced to us as stock types, with a line of dialogue listing them like a roll call as “the jock, the geek, the flirt.” It’s all very The Breakfast Club. Unlike The Breakfast Club, they’re never given a chance to show the layers underneath that reveal them to more than just adolescent stereotypes. Each character is given the one personality trait, and must stick to that throughout the whole movie, and this makes them dull. The only real standout among the actors is Zach Mills (Super 8) as the nerdy “Professor Plum” stand-in. He gets a sweet romance with a pretty girl and he gets to stand up to a bully. These nice character moments are fleeting, though, in favor of more running around talking about antique treasures and shadowy conspiracies.

The 1.78:1 widescreen transfer is nice and clean, with no glaringly obvious defects. The Dolby 5.1 Surround track is good as well, but not especially booming or immersive. There are two featurettes that look at the making of the movie, including interviews with the director and cast.

I’m always up for a lighthearted teen adventure movie, but this new Clue is too invested in its myriad plot to create interesting characters, and the final product suffers for it.

verdict

Who dunnit? Don’t care.

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