Movie review: ‘Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery’ is a clever, multilayered caper

Daniel Craig as the gentlemanly sleuth in“ Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery.”. - JOHN WILSON/NETFLIX/TNS

Just in case anyone had any knitwear-adjacent dreams regarding the new “Knives Out” movie, let me crush them right here: The absurdly cozy cable knit sweater, worn with such autumnal panache by Chris Evans in “Knives Out” that it launched a thousand memes, does not return for the sequel. There’s no need for it, as “Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery” mostly takes place at a palatial estate on an idyllic Greek island, and Evans and most of the rest of the original cast are presumably still off in New England watching the leaves fall. Only Daniel Craig’s courtly, Southern-flavored super-detective Benoit Blanc returns, showing off his fondness for nattily striped ensembles (his swimwear alone could possibly best that sweater in a duel) and his crackerjack ability to solve a murder in less time than it takes to drink a mint julep.

The original “Knives Out,” made on a lark by writer/director Rian Johnson as a sort of post-“The Last Jedi” palate cleanser, was that rarity in movies: wickedly smart, old-school goofball fun. “Glass Onion” therefore carries the heavy weight of expectation, which is tricky for a comedy, but for the most part it handles that burden lightly. Though inevitably not as fresh-feeling as the first one, with a running time that feels a bit bloated, the new film is nonetheless a kick and goes down nicely with popcorn.

As “Glass Onion” begins, a group of longtime friends are having their pandemic pods interrupted by an invitation to an exotic gathering — including Blanc, who’s been spending far too much time in his bathtub talking to friends on Zoom (and let it be known that I would watch an entire movie consisting of nothing but this), and who doesn’t know why he’s invited as he’s never met the host. Among the others on the guest list of billionaire inventor Miles Bron (Edward Norton): scientist Lionel Toussaint (Leslie Odom Jr.), fashion designer Birdie Jay (Kate Hudson), Connecticut Gov. Claire Debella (Kathryn Hahn), YouTube influencer Duke Cody (Dave Bautista) and his girlfriend Whiskey (Madelyn Cline), and former business partner Andi Brand (Janelle Monáe), who’s carrying more baggage than her luggage allowance would indicate. But Miles’ plans for the weekend are quickly squashed when someone turns up dead, and Blanc gets busy sniffing out whodunit.

You watch “Glass Onion” relaxed, feeling like you’re in good hands; everyone on-screen is clearly having a wonderful time, so you can’t help but join right in. The plot’s a clever, multilayered caper, echoing the elaborate structure the movie is named for, and Johnson fills the script with funny name-dropping (a case of hard kombucha was sent over, Miles breezily explains, by Jared Leto) and lets the cast happily ham it up. (Just listen to the delicious maple-syrup drawl Craig gives to the word “style,” which I can only transcribe as “staaaaaaal.”) And there’s a wondrous list of A-list cameos, so much so that a goodly portion of my notes taken during the screening consist simply of a famous person’s name followed by an exclamation point or three. I’m not about to spoil any of them, but do know that two of them are bittersweet, one of them made me shriek, and all of them are very funny. Apparently Johnson’s already contracted for “Knives Out 3”; bring it on, sweater or no.

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'GLASS ONION: A KNIVES OUT MYSTERY'

3 stars (out of 4)

MPAA rating: PG-13 (for strong language, some violence, sexual material and drug content)

Running time: 1:39

Where to watch: opens Wednesday at multiple theaters for one week only; begins streaming on Netflix Dec. 23

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