30 December 2002 | bob the moo
Way below average entry in the series - too many bits that don't work
A musical show is in town but all the cast are under heavy criticism from their director. One of the crew gets fired and leaves full of threats. Later that night the director is murdered and the main suspect is the same crew member. However Perry Mason witnessed the man drunk on the other side of town at the time of the murder. He stands up as a witness for the defence but is discredited as he had taken sedatives just before. He decides to defend the man instead and employs Ken Malansky to find out what the night watchman was doing at the time of the murder.
From the opening set-up this feels like it's going to be just the same as all the Mason films - which I don't mind as I like the formula. However soon after this the plot adds lots of things that are different, slightly, from the norm. We have Mason being the suspects' alibi in a scene where he is very rude to a nurse, we have all the other suspect's having overly complicated subplots behind them and we have Amy tagging along (again) on Ken's investigation after watching him defend a guilty pervert in a case from his new law practice.
These different things are the problem here because few of them work. The early scenes with Mason as a witness slow the film down and leaves less room for the full plot. The subplots are too complex (and depressing at times) and don't act as suspects but create other stories that it leaves untold. Mason himself is too grumpy and the final twist is even more unlikely and impossible to see than usual - it is just plain complex here and the final scene loses some impact as a result. Amy is a regular by this stage (being the sidekick for a few other movies) but she doesn't work - and suggestions that she is Ken's `Della' are laughable. And what's with the running gag that no-one can pronounce Malansky? Never had a problem before.
Burr is not his usual self - I don't know why he played it so grumpy here and got frustrated so often but it drags the film down. Hale is OK but has nothing to do. Moses and Paul don't work well at all together here. Her sidekick role has worked the odd time but here it's forced and she is very annoying. The support cast are OK and the `oh, look it's ...' face this time is Jerry Orbach from Law & Order .
Overall this has too many elements that don't work and the film takes one step too many away from the straight simple formula by adding to it unsuccessfully. As a Mason fan even I found this to be way below par for the series.