A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Crooked House is a murder mystery based on an Agatha Christie novel. But it doesn't feature one of her iconic detective characters, and, despite a good cast, the characters are thin and don't generate much suspense or interest. A pivotal plot point is a little on the disturbing side for younger viewers. There are two murders: One is via injection, and the other body is shown lying on the floor. A car explodes, guns are shown, shots are fired, and a little girl falls (off screen) from a tree house. Characters drink -- both alone and together -- and smoke fairly frequently; some overdo it to the point of drunkenness and hangovers. Characters kiss, and there's the suggestion of an extramarital affair. Language includes a use of "for Christ's sake" and an insult: "sadistic pig."
What's the story?
In CROOKED HOUSE, private eye Charles Hayward (Max Irons) is hired by a former lover, Sophia de Havilland (Stefanie Martini), to find out who killed her wealthy grandfather, Aristide Leonides. The house is filled with relatives, all of whom despised the old man and all of whom are suspects. Hayward investigates everyone, including Edith (Glenn Close), who hunts moles with a gun; Aristide's grown sons, Philip (Julian Sands) and Roger (Christian McKay); Philip's actress wife, Magda (Gillian Anderson); and the old man's second wife, a former Las Vegas dancer named Brenda (Christina Hendricks), who stands to inherit everything. Hayward also bonds with 12-year-old Josephine (Honor Kneafsey), who says she knows everything that goes on in the house but also admits that she likes to make things up. With a Scotland Yard chief inspector (Terence Stamp) riding him, Hayward has precious little time to uncover the real killer.
Is it any good?
Based on an Agatha Christie novel (reportedly one of her own favorites), this mystery is beautifully shot, with great set design, but it suffers from its odd pace. It's too fast to pick up on character nuance and too slow to generate any suspense. Crooked House serves up an entire mansion full of suspects, all of whom appear equally guilty and equally innocent. Director Gilles Paquet-Brenner (Sarah's Key, Dark Places) seems more intent on trying to build a mystery than on building a world populated by characters. Everyone seems placed like a puzzle piece, rather than organically occupying a living space.
Certainly Christie's skill comes into play during the final act, as the discovery becomes imminent and the disparate clues that have been scattered about begin to make sense, but until then, it's a thinly spread mess. The movie spends a great deal of time on the history between the detective and young Josephine, but it amounts to almost nothing; it's padding. Screenwriter Julian Fellowes has done far better (Gosford Park, Downton Abbey); Crooked House is just a lazy weekend in a big house with people no one would ever give a hoot about in real life.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about Cooked House's depiction of violence and murder. How much does the movie actually show? How much is suggested? Is the result thrilling or gruesome? What's the impact of media violence on kids?
How does the movie compare to other films based on Agatha Christie stories? What's the appeal of murder mysteries?
- In theaters: December 22, 2017
- On DVD or streaming: January 16, 2018
- Cast: Gillian Anderson, Glenn Close, Max Irons, Christina Hendricks
- Director: Gilles Paquet-Brenner
- Studio: Sony Pictures Worldwide Acquisitions
- Genre: Thriller
- Topics: Book characters
- Run time: 115 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG-13
- MPAA explanation: thematic material and some sexual content
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Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.