Wednesday, January 8, 2020

Movie Review: Abracadaver - A Crossword Mystery

Stars: 4 out of 5
Pros: Strong, twisty mystery
Cons: Set up is questionable; usual cheese
The Bottom Line:
Death at magic show
Opens twisty mystery
With a poor set up

“How Many Times Do I Have to Hear Your ‘Tess, Stay Out of Police Business’ Speech?”  “As Long As You Ignore It.”

Hallmark didn’t waste any time switching from their Christmas movies back to mystery movies.  This past Sunday, the first Sunday of 2020, saw the premier of Abracadaver, their first mystery movie for the year.  Of course, it helps that this Crossword Mystery was originally scheduled to air last October.  Anyway, outside of some curious set up choices, this was a great first mystery movie of the year.

Tess (Lacey Chabert) is working on a magic themed crossword puzzle, so she has started taking classes at the Magic Manner as research.  It also means she is able to bring some guests for one of the dinner shows for her birthday.  Naturally, her guests include Aunt Candace (Barbara Niven) and Logan (Brennan Elliott).  It turns out to be a good thing that Logan is there when the magician performing that night dies while conducting the infamous Bullet Catch illusion.  Despite warnings to stay out of the investigation, Tess can’t help but use her time at the manner for her classes as an excuse to ask questions and poke around.  Will she and Logan figure out what happened to the magician?

Before we go any further, let’s discuss that set up.  Really?  You need to take magic classes as research for a crossword puzzle?  It seems like an afternoon with a magician and a Google search would be more than enough, and even the time with the magician may be overkill.  Furthermore, that’s about the only connection to crossword puzzles we get in the movie.  It’s like the writers were more excited about the magic aspect of the movie and focused on that.  Mind you, I’m not complaining too loudly since I love magic, and I always find that a fascinating backdrop for a mystery.

Plus, it was a good mystery.  There are plenty of threads for Tess and Logan to investigate and twists along the way, and that kept me engaged and guessing until they reached the logical ending.  I did find one thing was left dangling at the end of the movie, but I am okay with guessing what exactly happened there.

While I did mention Candace in my teaser, this is really Tess and Logan’s show.  Candace and a few of the other supporting players have a few scenes, but the focus is really on the two leads investigating, both together and separately.  I don’t mind since I do love these lead characters.  The paper were Tess works gets a new crime reporter in this movie; I’m assuming we’ll be seeing more of him in future movies. 

Yes, the movie does come with the standard Hallmark cheese warning.  It’s a light dose, and it covers some of my earlier complaints about the set up.  Just know that going in, and you’ll be fine.

If this is any indication of the mystery movies we have to go this year, we’re going to have a great year ahead of us.  Abracadaver is a fun and twisty start to Hallmark’s 2020 slate.

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