Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Crazy 80's Project: Clue and WarGames

When the news a few years ago broke that Hasbro was planning on turning some of its board games into movies, many people moaned and groaned about Hollywood's lack of originality. But just like with any adaptation of any material, it comes down to the screenplay and the direction the writers and the director take the material (I, for one, have always maintained that CandyLand would make a fantastic film--provided Tim Burton doesn't get his hands on it, that is). Clue is an obvious example of this. Utilizing the structure of the board game while simultaneously making fun of it and the mystery genre as a whole, Clue has a point of view all its own, which is why it has become such a cult film all these years later. The main selling point of Clue, however, is its stellar comedic cast. The legendary Madeline Kahn and Lesley Ann Warren are obvious highlights, but Best in Show honors go to Eileen Brennan as Mrs. Peacock. From her feathery hat, her cat eye glasses, her befuddled delivery and her generalized confusion, she understands and nails the character beyond what the script asks of her. But the entire cast is superb and together they form one of the funniest, most "in sync" ensembles ever assembled. B+

For a film about a couple of teens who inadvertently start and stop a nuclear war between the US and the USSR, WarGames is surprisingly more serious than its adolescent premise sounds. In fact, the film received Oscar nominations in major categories for Best Adapted Screenplay and Best Cinematography (alongside the legendary Sven Nykvist!), which shows that even Oscar considered WarGames to be a good more adult than I originally considered when I put it on my list. The film is a little naive (Really, that's all it takes to hack into the government's computer that controls their nukes?) and there is no real sense of End of the World Terror that many of the best nuclear holocaust movies elicit. But WarGames is a genuinely good thriller, fast-paced, exciting and free from the extraneous fluff that often slows down blockbuster thrillers. Matthew Broderick is the film's star, but I believe that co-star Ally Sheedy, as his friend/love interest, stole the entire show. Whereas Broderick relies on the smarminess and sarcasm that worked so well a few years later in Ferris Bueller's Day Off, Sheedy has a glowing presence about her, an attractiveness of the spirit that instantly endears her to the camera. And it's a complete 180 from The Breakfast Club a couple of years later, where she defined the odd, antisocial outcast. Granted, WarGames doesn't give her character much to do besides chase Broderick around. She's still, however, a lovely, engaging presence that only makes WarGames stronger. B-

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