Comedy comes naturally for Brent Butt. Say what you want about his clean-cut deadpan performances and how “it doesn’t work for you”. But, six seasons of a highly popular footnote in Canadian television is nothing to ignore.
Myself – along with a large cult fan base – find the Saskatchewan born comic to be hilarious and in tune with all the components it takes to make people laugh: delivery, timing, and content.
So, why is he trying so hard in No Clue? At points, I was concerned Butt would pull a muscle.
No Clue, a Canadian caper comedy with Butt in his first leading role in a feature film, is one of those cases where the people who made it – at the very least – deserve a pat on the back or a participation ribbon. The audience can see what the film is trying to do – setting itself as a modern day homage to 50’s detective yarns – and the movie nails its objectives decently. To be more detailed, each scene has been carefully lit and staged to resemble a classic thrilling atmosphere and it pays off big time.
The issue lies with the film not being poorly made, but by being awfully misguided by Butt’s overcooked screenplay and indistinct direction barely provided by Carl Bessai.
Butt was heavily involved with No Clue’s production. By piling on the extra work of having to perform a different type of character instead of his crowd pleasing dry wit he’s comfortable with, it’s clear to observe that Butt was spinning alot of plates and losing focus. Those three main components he’s usually good at meeting, multiply themselves – affecting Butt’s ability to make us smile.
The funny man plays an anxious babbler – ala Don Knotts – who gets wrapped up in a game of crime and deceit by posing as a private eye. Butt probably has the ability to expand his acting range, but he goes overboard with nervous ticks, bumbling, and other scaredy-cat traits including a raised voice that sounds like his voicebox is being pinched. It’s a performance that comes off as the comedian trying to prove himself as an actor. Ironically, he needed to chill out in order to play fidgety Leo.
No help is given by Bessai, who should be toning the film’s hero into someone more affectionate. The filmmaker rather comes across as someone who’s only present to help set up shots and walk through camera movements with the cinematographer. Luckily, a lot of the roles are filled out by actors who know how to maintain themselves. However, it doesn’t take away from how badly Bessai needed to show more involvement.
There’s hardly anything crude in No Clue, except for minimal swears and potty humour. It’s a film that very much feels like it belongs in Brent Butt’s wheelhouse. It’s disappointing to see how a simple harmless mystery blows up into numerous charades that are more tangled than they need to be. Even when the film starts explaining how each intricate tip played a part in solving the case, the reveal still has us extremely baffled. And, the addition of the conundrums revolving around a missing video game designer and his questionable video game company only makes Butt come across as an old dude trying to fit in with the kids.
There’s a meagre number of giggles before realizing how much trouble the film is in. After those glimmers, No Clue painfully dawdles. Bessai and Butt want us to stay hooked because of the mystery, but we’re drawn to the errors that surround it instead. Quite simply: No Clue is a jarring bust.