• by Wes Singleton

Knives Out - B

Rated PG-13, 130 minutes

It was Colonel Mustard in the library with the candlestick. The charming whodunit comedy "Knives Out" provides a modern-day take on the mystery game "Clue." While hardly new and occasionally too self-aware, there a handful of fun moments from its all-star cast.

Wealthy crime novelist Harlan Thrombey (Oscar-winner Christopher Plummer) invites his extended dysfunctional family to his remote mansion on his 85th birthday in hopes of reuniting them all. However, the day after the birthday party, Harlan is found dead by members of the family. The police, along with experienced detective Benoit Blanc (Daniel Craig), are called in to investigate. Soon enough, everyone in the family becomes a suspect in his death.

Directed and written by "Looper's" Rian Johnson, the effusive "Knives Out" is a serviceable, entertaining mystery comedy that doesn't take itself too seriously, which is both its strength and weakness. On the good side, Johnson has assembled a stellar cast, that includes Plummer, Craig along with Ana de Armas ("Blade Runner 2049"), Jamie Lee Curtis, Toni Collette, Chris Evans, Don Johnson, Lakeith Stanfield and Michael Shannon, all of whom may or may not have something to do with Harlan's death.

On the downside, with that large of a cast, some get lost in the fray (Collette, Stanfield and several others), while others get in a few good moments, particularly newcomer de Armas, Evans and Shannon. Then there's Craig, doing his best Southern accent, which is both cloying and annoying at the same time. Johnson starts it off well, followed by a rather muddled second act, and an over-the-top last act.

Along the way, there are a few fun twists to be had, but Johnson lets it go on a little too long, and seems intent on twisting it a little too much, so much that the big reveal seems a tad anti-climactic with everyone in on the joke. Even with a few flaws, a game cast, particularly Craig and Plummer, enjoy themselves solving a murder in the likable "Knives Out," which is a good escape this holiday season.