When renowned crime novelist Harlan Thrombey is found dead the day after his 85th birthday, everyone in his dysfunctional family is a suspect. That's the premise for Rian Johnson's latest film "Knives Out."
The flick, which has been billed as a comedic whodunit, has been warmly received by critics ahead of its Wednesday release. "Knives Out" currently holds a 96% "fresh" rating on Rotten Tomatoes, with many praising the films' suspenseful storytelling, stellar ensemble and use of old murder-mystery tropes.
Daniel Craig and Lakeith Stanfield play a pair of detectives looking into Thrombey's murder. The late Thrombey is played by Christopher Plummer.
The main family is made up of Jaime Lee Curtis, Chris Evans, Toni Collette, Michael Shannon, Don Johnson and Katherine Langford, while Ana De Armas plays Thrombey's in-home nurse.
Last Friday and Saturday, 936 theaters held preview showings of the Lionsgate film, grossing $2 million. Analysts currently project the film to make around $20 million over the five-day Thanksgiving weekend, once it reaches 3,300 theaters on Wednesday.
Fandango has reported that "Knives Out" is the fourth most-anticipated movie of the rest of the year, just behind anticipated blockbusters "Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker," "Frozen II" and "Jumanji: The Next Level."
Here's a rundown of what critics have said of "Knives Out" ahead of its opening:
Ann Hornaday, a critic with The Washington Post, praised Craig's role in the film as Benoit Blanc, a private detective with a hammy Southern accent, and called "Knives Out" a "cheekily playful updating of Agatha Christie by way of Trump-era politics."
Johnson interjects little quips about immigration policies, liberal hypocrisy, the rise of internet trolls and the "we-built-that mythologies of inherited wealth," she said.
Hornaday gave the film three stars out of four.
"Just as effective as a goofy social satire as it is a diverting shaggy dog story, this is a movie that knows when to pour on the gas and when to ease up — and that also benefits from performances that are thoroughly committed even when the actors are clearly in on the joke. Once the game is afoot in 'Knives Out,' its step is never less than light, swift and sure."
Read the full review from The Washington Post.
"Knives Out" is "delicious big-screen entertainment," Scott Mendelson, a senior contributor at Forbes, said in his review of the film.
Mendelson said the star-studded flick manages to both follow the formula of the whodunit genre and cleverly play against it.
"I could point out some spoiler-y nitpicks and after-the-fact qualms, but the movie works far more than it doesn't and ends on a high note. The cast is a blast, with all of them relishing the chance to chew into (often against-type) characters amid a twisty, surprising and arguably older kid-safe mystery plot. Good is not the enemy of perfect. Warts and all, Rian Johnson's 'Knives Out' is a damn good movie."
Read the full review from Forbes.
While The Seattle Times critic Moira Macdonald lauded Collette, Evans and Curtis for their performances in the film, it seems that Craig was the star in her eyes.
"He's having even more fun than we are — and that's saying a lot, because 'Knives Out' is a kick," she wrote.
Macdonald gave the film 3½ out four stars.
"Count me among those who wouldn't have guessed that Rian Johnson would follow up his "Star Wars: The Last Jedi" success with an old-fashioned whodunit — but count me delighted. In this season of Big, Serious Movies, what a treat to find this wonderfully silly, perfectly paced hall of mirrors hanging out at the multiplexes. It's as if Agatha Christie came back for a visit, after getting caught up on pop culture in the beyond."
Read the full review from The Seattle Times.
"Johnson's the real deal, an old-school moviemaker with a nose for story, dialogue, and character; his films aren't art and they're not trying to be; they're simply among the most sublimely crafted entertainments of recent years," Ty Burr, critic at The Boston Globe wrote. "With 'Knives Out,' Johnson's firing on all cylinders, and it's a joy to witness."
Burr noted Johnson's love of genre films, but also his love of subverting them. He pointed to 2005's neo-noir mystery film "Brick" and 2012's time-traveling science fiction film "Looper" as evidence of Johnson's craft.
Burr gave "Knives Out" four stars.
"Pound for pound, actor for actor, laugh for laugh, "Knives Out" may be the most entertaining movie of the year. It's a gift and a skewering, a love letter and a pratfall — an old-school murder mystery breathed into riotous new life by a young Jedi master of moviemaking, Rian Johnson. And it really deserves the establishment of a new Oscar category for Best Honey-Baked Ham, whose 2019 recipient could only be Daniel Craig."
Read the full review from The Boston Globe.
Overall, Nerdist's Lindsey Romain was complimentary of "Knives Out," praising the cast and how fun the film was to watch in theaters.
Still, Romain points out that "Knives Out" isn't a perfect film. She noted that the second act is a little long and, at times, there seems to be a little too much going on in the plot.
She gave the film four-out-of-five stars.
"Still, in the end, 'Knives Out' succeeds as clever, propulsive slice of a movie, the sort of audience-pleaser that crosses generational interests and will make you laugh yourself silly. Overall, the movie feels like stepping into a game of 'Clue,' if the board were planted somewhere in the chilly east coast, where shadows loom and money is an institution. It's a perfect movie for the times: funny and sharp, with something important to say. Just make sure you go in knowing nothing, lest you fall victim yourself."
Read the full review from Nerdist.
Disclosure: Comcast, the parent company of CNBC, owns Fandango and Rotten Tomatoes.