By George Rose
May 26, 2009
Despite the film's utmost-simplicity, so many questions are asked throughout. Whose story can be considered truly accurate, the witnesses' or the accused? Is a citizen, someone who has probably also committed some small crime of their own (don't act like you haven't), a worthy juror? Is making it home in time for dinner worth quickly declaring a man guilty of murder? I can only try to answer these questions but 12 Angry Men sure poses them in an interesting fashion. Each of Fonda's attempts to sway the individual jurors is mesmerizing and can be learned from for use in your own future arguments. While the film doesn't have an ounce of color or any scenery worth calling "breathtaking", it will leave you more satisfied and informed than most of this Summer's band-aid covered (I mean special-effects filled) blockbusters.
Speaking of blockbusters... wait, Clue failed miserably at the box office? It was also blasted as garbage by critics? How's this for a question without an answer: how can a movie that makes no money and has no support have a remake in the works with an A-list director like Gore Verbinski (Pirates of the Caribbean trilogy) attached? A cult following has that affect sometimes. That should tell you something. Though both critics and moviegoers agreed that this movie wasn't worth the time of day, it was later appreciated by an audience from a different decade for a whole different set of reasons. Wait a minute! That means that maybe older critics who have seen more movies from the past ("classics") aren't necessarily the voices the modern day man (or woman) wants to listen to. Is this new voice good or bad compared to past voices? There is no one answer or one perfect kind of critic, people! The answer is variety. Enter my opinion...
I am part of this cult following. I loved the board game and thought the dark comedy was fun and exciting. How often can you laugh at death, especially when people are dropping like flies? The cast is killer (sorry, I couldn't resist), including such talent as Christopher Lloyd, Michael McKean, Lesley Ann Warren, Martin Mull, Madeline Kahn and Tim Curry. You should be fairly familiar with the idea of the plot, since it was a board game EVERYONE has played: several guests attend a party at a mansion where the blackmailing host, Mr. Boddy, is murdered. There are several supporting characters added to the movie (a cook, French maid, cop, singing telegram) but all for the sake of additional comedic murders. The question, like in the board game, is: who is the murderer? What weapons were used and in what rooms are also part of the fun!
Unlike most murder mysteries, the main question cannot be answered. The movie was released with three alternate endings and is among the few movies to use such a gimmick. At least in the board game you come to some sort of temporary answer, until the next game is played and a new murderer is selected. The film may not have done well in theaters since the audience was only privy to one of those answers, but all TV viewings and DVDs of the movie include all three, leaving it as open-ended as movies come. Other questions are also asked: What is the connection between the invited guests? What is their connection to the random visitors that add to the body count? Watching the movie is as fun as playing the game and is sure to leave you as baffled as I was when I discovered the movie bombed (I was born the same year, so I was not a part of the masses that wrongly turned down the chance to see it). Hopefully Verbinski will do the same thing for board games as he did for the pirate genre and make it worth reintroducing for the next wave of movie goers. I definitely won't be a part of the group that made the mistake of missing it when it finally does hit the big screen again.