new clue movie

As someone who completely wore out his VHS copy of Clue through constant rewatching over many years, I’ll never not be delighted by the strong cult following Jonathan Lynn’s 1985 comedy has developed over the years. Here’s a film that was The LEGO Movie decades before The LEGO Movie existed – a bad idea executed to such perfection that it feels like a warning to every imitator. Don’t even try. We made this cynical idea, this film adaption of a popular toy brand, sing. It would be all downhill from here.

So my initial response to the news that 20th Century Fox is developing a new Clue movie is to raise an eyebrow and cross my arms and make a distinct “Hurm” because I have a hard time imagining this ending well.

The Tracking Board reports that the new Clue has set up shop at Fox after being abandoned by Universal back in 2011. Hasbro has been developing a film adaptation of the iconic board game for years now (Pirates of the Caribbean‘s Gore Verbinski was attached for a while), and this take sounds about as far from the original incarnation as you can imagine. While the classic Clue put players in the shoes of murder suspects navigating a mansion and trying to discern who killed their host and with what weapon and in which room, this version is apparently a “worldwide mystery” with “action-adventure elements” that could set up a “possible franchise.” You know, all of the words you want to be associated with a classical, Agatha Christie-style mystery scenario!

To be fair, the ’85 Clue took that basic set-up and transformed it into a manic screwball comedy full of dynamite wordplay, ribald jokes, slapstick gags, and easily four or five of Tim Curry’s all-time best moments. As a game, Clue is such a barebones premise – you can expand on it and modify its tone in any way you see fit! It’s just that a globetrotting adventure movie doesn’t even sound remotely like Clue anymore, which means Hasbro is more interested in the game’s recognizable name than anything else. If you strip it of that parlor room mystery setting, why even call it Clue?

I won’t say board games should never serve as the inspiration for a movie – there are plenty of surprising contenders, and I’ll go to my grave defending Peter Berg’s ridiculous Battleship. The mere fact that I have an irregular series here on /Film where I talk about the cinematic traits of tabletop gaming means that I see the potential for many board games to make the jump to film. However, the games that always seem like they’re on the cusp of getting made into movies, like Monopoly, Risk, and Candyland, are also the games that feel like they offer the least potential. I’m all for Hollywood looking to tabletop for inspiration, but the games that would make for the best movies aren’t the ones with inherent brand recognition.

Anyway, this new Clue movie is still far from a sure thing, and it could easily vanish into the ether. In the meantime, here’s the late, great Madeline Kahn in a scene from Clue that I quote at least once a week.

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