Where's Peter Sellers when you need him?
"Passed away," you say?
Oh, that's a shame.
"Why?" you ask.
Clearly . . . indubitably. . . without a doubt, his Inspector Jacques Clouseau would have salvaged what’s wound up on the screen as Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery.
Try imagining an advertisement for Steuben crystal interlocked with a screenplay based on a tenth-rate Agatha-Christie crimer, and you’d still have a better two hours and 19 minutes than what us Netflixers are now eying. Seldom has a film boasted more glass statuary. As the credits roll, you can’t help but expect a thank you to the manufacturers of Windex.
Part of a $450-million rights deal for the detective series that began with the slightly over-appreciated Knives Out, the Onion showcases Daniel Craig in his worst career performance. In his return as the "brilliant" detective Benoit Blanc, his accent once again is a weird hybrid of Southern and moronic. As for his on-screen presence, there was once a false rumor that spread wildly about a heartthrob actor who supposedly went to a hospital to have a live gerbil removed from his derriere. Imagine that star with that gerbil still encased within, and you have the type of performance Craig dishes out.
But next to the rest of the cast, he's Olivier, with the exception of the Janelle Monáe, who manages to retain her dignity throughout.
For starters, his co-stars -- Kate Hudson, Dave Bautista, and Kathryn Hahn -- demean their SAG memberships as few others have in recent years. The recent fare of Ms. Hudson and Mr. Bautista have escaped my perusal, but word of mouth has told me that’s a blessing. Believe me! When you get a bland performance from Hahn (check out her terrific turn opposite Kevin Bacon in the Amazon series I Love Dick), you know you can blame the writer/director, who in this case is the now very rich Rian Johnson.
Flaccid dialogue and inept direction upend a plot that might been entertaining under different leadership. Now Mr. Johnson has not been untouched by comic genius in the past. His 8-minute short from 1997, Evil Demon Golf Ball from Hell!!!, is laugh-out-loud, side-splitting fun. Here a murderous thief is pursued from this world to the next by a revengeful golf ball. Unlike with Johnson's current ode to another orb, the Onion, there's not a bloated unamusing second.
The premise of his new film is that a group of obnoxious, self-aggrandizing folks are invited to an island housing an Elon-Musk billionaire, Miles Bron (a bemused Edward Norton) to play a murder mystery game in which the victim, he states, will be himself.
Now I once participated in one of these games in the then Connecticut home of America's wittiest playwrights, Christopher Durang. Everyone had a delicious time, and afterwards we all could walk to the little bungalow housing a hot tub. Deplorably, Glass Onion does not come with a hot tub. I know. I looked. Just with a bunch of instructions that Mr. Bron smirkingly states:
"Consider what you know about each other. Know that across the island, I've hidden clues. Some may be helpful. Some may misdirect. That's for you to determine. But if anyone can name the killer. Tell me how they achieved the murder, and most importantly, what was the motive, that person wins the game. Any questions?"
"Uh, wait," responds Detective Blanc. "What do win?"
The only winners here are those who switch immediately to HBO Max to catch Ana Taylor-Joy in The Menu, a tingling black comedy with both thrills, wit, and well-earned heartburn.