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Columns Eleanor Ringel Cater

See How They Run

If a British detective named Inspector Stoppard doesn’t make you think of a certain hugely famous playwright, well, “See How They Run” is probably not the movie for you.

But if you have a soft spot for period whodunits, then you may have some fun with this stylish, well-cast piece that mostly comes off as an appetizer for “The Glass Onion,” the soon-to-be-released sequel to 2019’s tasty “Knives Out,” starring a louche Daniel Craig as a Southern-fried crime-solver.

“See How They Run” — the title evokes either a nursery rhyme or a Beatles song or both — wraps itself about Dame Agatha Christie’s famously long-running play, “The Mousetrap.” The show opened in the early ‘50s and, 70 years later, is still running(Ok, there was a necessary break for COVID, but that’ s it). According to the movie, over 10 million people have seen “The Mousetrap.”

As “See How They Run” opens, its 1953 and “The Mousetrap” is celebrating its 100thperformance. But all is not well, on-stage or off. For one thing, there’s a corpse on set. A real corpse. And not a cast member.

Rather it’s oleaginous American director, Leo Kopernick (Adrien Brody) who wants to make “The Mousetrap” into a Hollywood movie.  One problem (aside from his being freshly dead): Dame Agatha has decreed that her show has to have been closed for six months before any further negotiations can take place.

Brody narrates a lot of the movie — much of it post-mortem— and he gets certain things right.  Such as, the first dead person is usually somebody everyone else hates. Well…

Enter our real stars: Oscar-winner Sam Rockwell as the aforementioned Inspector Stoppard, a cynical, semi-alcoholic Scotland Yard veteran, and his new partner, an over-eager yet somehow endearing rookie named Constable Stalker (Oscar-nominee Saoirse Ronan).

They are delightful together and their oddball chemistry often helps the film over some of its rougher spots. So does the meticulous set design with its chunky typewriters and chunkier dial phones.

The picture’s problem is simply that it’s not as clever as it thinks it is. It’s not stupid, nor is it embarrassing.  But it tends to remind us of better efforts in this genre.

One of which, by the way, has never been filmed as far as I know. It’s an early Tom Stoppard play (aaaaaah!) written around the time of “Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead.” Called “The Real Inspector House,” it, too, bundles itself into the time-honored tropes of “The Mousetrap,” but with a bit more ingeniousness.

Still, on an autumnal November afternoon, there are worst ways to spend your time than with “See How They Run.” Try to enjoy it for what it offers and not judge it too harshly for what it doesn’t.

Eleanor Ringel

Eleanor Ringel, Movie Critic, was the film critic for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution for almost 30 years. She was nominated multiple times for a Pulitzer Prize. She won the Best of Cox Critic, IMAGE Film & Video and Women In Film awards. An Atlanta native, she graduated from Westminster and Brown University. She was the critic on WXIA’s Noonday, a member of Entertainment Weekly's Critics Grid and wrote TV Guide’s movie/DVD. She is member of the National Society of Film Critics and currently talks about movies on WMLB and writes the Time Out column for the Atlanta Business Chronicle.

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