Knives Out! is what it would look like if The Royal Tenenbaums were invited to dinner in Murder by Death.
The very wealthy Harlan Thrombey (Christopher Plummer) has amassed a publishing fortune. He writes bestselling murder mystery novels known for their intricate plots and unlikely solutions. The family comes to visit him for his 85th birthday. The Thrombey home is a beautiful, Victorian mansion full of strange curiosities (Honestly, it’s the house I want some day). It also houses secrets and hidden passages.
After a tense party, where not everyone was on their best behavior, Thrombey heads to bed and the family members drift off to different rooms. They are awakened in the morning by a screaming housekeeper who finds Thrombey dead in his attic study, apparently by suicide.
The official inquiry agrees but private investigator Benoit Blanc (Daniel Craig) wants to go through the sequence events again, certain there is something amiss. His presence also makes the family grow suspicious of one another. Tough Linda (Jamie Lee Curtis) is frustrated by her siblings (Chris Evans, Toni Collette, Michael Shannon) who never worked as hard in life as she did. Her husband Richard (Don Johnson) is only concerned with keeping the pursestrings open. There are spoiled teenagers and even an ancient grandmother (K Callan). All of them have a piece of information important to that night’s events and they are all desperate to inherit.
Their characters also each bring comedic elements. PI Blanc is the prime mover of the action, leading the audience though the mystery clue by clue. He has a languorous drawl, which is strange coming from Daniel Craig, but once the initial surprise wears off, it adds to the humor. Blanc is also full of bits of Southern fried wisdom that are hilariously nonsensical.
Some of the best moments are provided by the cops who display their disbelief in amusing ways. They offer a touchstone of reality when the ridiculosity of the movie starts to be a bit much. Their unvarnished reactions add another layer of comedy and they act as a stand in for the audience.
It does take the movie a bit to hit its stride. It seems to flounder at moments when it tries to “tell” rather than “show.” Thankfully those moments are few and far between. For the most part, it jumps from scene to scene easily.
The final “solution” feels a little bit forced but it fits within the style of film which is telling a quirky story already. But I will say that the solution is plausible and doesn’t break any of its own rules.
Fans of the whodunit-comedy genre will enjoy the elements it shares with cult classic Clue and bonkers Murder By Death. If you want some smart laughs and a movie that will make you think, I heartily recommend spending an afternoon with the Thrombey family and Benoit Blanc.