• Joe Pace

Favorite Fictional Characters, #336: Wadsworth


Jarvis?

1985 was in many respects a silly time. And one of its silliest products was a movie about a board game, armed with the inventive conceit of multiple variant endings. The cast included such time-capsule staples as Martin Mull, Colleen Camp, Christopher Lloyd, and Madeleine Kahn (apparently Carrie Fisher was slated to play Miss Scarlett until she bowed out to go to rehab). I particularly enjoyed MIchael McKean's bumbling Mr. Green, especially in the ending in which he reveals himself to not be a closeted homosexual diplomat but rather an undercover FBI agent who proves the hero of the caper and declares in ringing tones that he will be going home to sleep with his wife. Still, there's only one spotlight in this picture, and Tim Curry drinks it all up as the butler/host/ringleader Wadsworth.


The film had tons of problems - pacing, plot, dialogue - but Curry ignores all of that and uses the lackluster script as his own personal playground, the cardboard-cutout set as his own sandbox. This is Curry at his leering, frenetic, biting best. He deftly weaves physical comedy with cutting sarcasm, making Wadsworth into an oddly snarky servant, one who obliquely insults and even openly berates the other guests. Curry is uniquely equipped for the task, his acting style the bastard child of a shrug and an eye-roll, a tween girl mixed with a Shakespearian thespian. Like a handful of other actors (Robin Williams comes to mind, perhaps Jim Carrey), there's an exciting unpredictability to Curry, a sort of random timer that launches him from controlled poise to sudden and unexpected movement, and it makes him mesmerizing to watch.


The film itself, as I said, is intriguing but ultimately disappointing, better left in the fog of nostalgia than in the harsh lights of reviewing. But Curry's Wadsworth is still worthwhile, if only because he butles so convincingly.

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