No Clue

There aren’t many comedic detective movies coming out nowadays. Granted, there aren’t many detective movies in the first place, but having them contain a sense of humor is even rarer. No Clue, filmed and set in Vancouver, Canada, is such a film. It is a riot. It is hilarious, clever, and marks a promising theatrical debut from writer and star Brent Butt. Yes, Corner Gas‘s Brent Butt. If you don’t know what Corner Gas is you should find out. It’s also hilarious and clever, and contains a similar style of comedy as to what you’re going to get from No Clue.

From the premise on, the film takes you for a wild and extremely enjoyable ride. Kyra (Amy Smart) wanders into the office of one Leo Falloon (Butt), and tells him the story of her missing brother, a video game designer who created the highest-grossing game of the previous year. I can’t recall if it was for the Xstation or the Playbox. She enlists his help to track him down. An early shot informed us that the building contains a private investigator. The scene after Kyra’s plea for help has Leo talking with his best friend, Ernie (David Koechner), in which the line “You didn’t think to tell her she’s in the wrong office?” — or something similar — is uttered.

What a fun concept. We have a not-a-real-detective deciding to take on the case, primarily due to romantic attraction. Along the way, he encounters, varying video game developer bosses, a femme fatale (Kirsten Prout), betrayal, guns, more guns, and a mystery that kind of, sort of, works out in the end, a little bit. Oh, and lots of laughs. It’s been a while since I’ve seen a comedy this funny.

If you have seen Corner Gas — and if you haven’t, please at least give it a shot — you’ll know what type of comedy to expect. Both the series and this film are written or co-written by Brent Butt. The only difference is that there are no cutaways in this film. That’s probably for the best. They wouldn’t fit with the style or tone. It’s hard to describe what type of comedy this is, but you’ll understand what the filmmakers are going for rather early on, or maybe just from hearing the premise. It’s not zany, but it is hilarious.

Understanding film noir or having seen a lot of detective movies will help you get more out of this film. Most of the compositions and some of the jokes wind up either being an homage or breakdown of cliches of the genre. There are also references galore, although you don’t need to “get” those in order to enjoy No Clue. They’ll just add to the experience. Why is one of the video game companies called “Glass Key”?

No Clue is very Canadian, but so was Corner Gas. Vancouver is where a lot of films are shot but they’re not often set there. Tim Horton’s coffee cups are seen in several shots. If you don’t know what Tim Horton’s is, I don’t know what to tell you. It’s a Canadian staple, with one seemingly every few blocks. A few of the jokes will only work either in Canada or with a familiarity for the country. Stereotypes will probably get you by for the most part.

Brent Butt is unlikely to win any acting awards — a fact that is commented on in the film, actually — but he stretches farther here than I’d seem him before. His character’s persona is still one of naivety and sweetness, but there’s more genuine acting going on here than in Corner Gas or his less successful Hiccups. Amy Smart disappears for large chunks of the film, particularly in the middle, although she turns in an interesting performance. It finds the right balance between enigmatic and sexy. David Koechner is here for Butt to play off in a few scenes and advance the plot, but his few scenes are funny.

What a film like this comes down to is how funny it is. No Clue is exceptionally funny. It has a very high laugh-per-minute ratio, most of the jokes hit home, it’s clever, smart, and has an interesting if intentionally derivative plot. It works as both a send-up and a critique of detective movies, and if you have watched more than a couple of those, you’ll get more out of this film. This is a very enjoyable film and one that I implore you to see.

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