In the spirit of the season, we’re going to start with a light one: Clue, one of those comedies that nobody understood when it was first released, but has since gone on to become a classic. Based on the evergreen board game, it initially baffled critics and audiences with its vaudeville-style script and a gimmick that allowed for different endings depending on which theater you watched it in. The last bit may have been ill-conceived, but the inclusion of all three endings on the VHS release cut the Gordian Knot nicely. And with seven of the funniest people on the planet front and center, the film sparkles on the sheer power of good comic timing. It opened today in 1985.
Barry Levinson’s Bugsy got shoved aside a little bit in the stampede to honor The Silence of the Lambs, and with the shadow of Goodfellas breathing down its neck. But it’s a terrific gangster film, and Warren Beatty’s hypnotic portrayal of infamous gangster Bugsy Siegel ranks as one of the best performances he’s given. The film also introduced him to his eventual wife Annette Bening, and the chemistry between the two is scorching. Bugsy opened today in 1991.
Then there’s Jerry Maguire, Cameron Crowe’s romantic comedy about a sports agent (Tom Cruise) who loses everything and finds his soul. It’s funny and charming in equal measures, featuring a star-making turn from Renee Zellweger as yet another of Cameron’s winsome blonde muses. The real scene-stealer, however, was Cuba Gooding, Jr. who won an Oscar as the only one of Cruise’s clients who sticks with him. William H. Macy was robbed — at gunpoint — but it’s hard to deny Gooding’s onscreen charm. The film opened today in 1996.
Finally, we have The Poseidon Adventure, Irwin Allen’s typically ridiculous disaster saga about a cruise ship hit by a tidal wave and the brave passengers who have to fight their way clear of the sinking wreck. It’s awful, but an interesting sort of awful, and at the time, its particular kind of awfulness was all the rage. It opened today in 1972.