See How They Run

This middling whodunit aims to be self-referential – it takes place behind-the-scenes of a famous theatrical whodunit, Agatha Christie's long-running play The Mousetrap – but while its script takes a few clever turns, much of its potential fun is leached away by flat direction and a miscast star.

The year is 1953, and as The Mousetrap celebrates its 100th performance, a cynical Hollywood producer (a game Adrien Brody) comes to London to oversee the screenplay adaptation and secure the rights. Lo and behold, he is murdered backstage, and so we have to find out who killed him and why.

Enter a pair of offbeat detectives – slovenly Inspector Stoppard (Sam Rockwell) and his giddy young assistant Constable Stalker (Saoirse Ronan) – assigned to the case by Scotland Yard. With these two lovable, high-profile actors leading the way, See How They Run should be a rollicking good time, right? Well, it is not.

I never thought Sam Rockwell could be bad in a movie, but, uncomfortable with his vaguely English accent and damn-near sleepwalking through what should be high farce, he really drags down the proceedings. A note to the film's producers: It's not like you couldn't have cast an equally talented, equally bankable British actor to play the part! And director Tom George, helming his first feature after numerous episodes of British TV, does little to pick up the pace. (He also has a strange knack for leaving too much headroom in his shots.) One senses that Mark Chappell's original screenplay was quite funny on the page, but if Tom George was aiming for something in the vein of a Coen Brothers or Wes Anderson picture, he failed: his direction simply lacks their snap.

For her part, Saoirse Ronan is adorable and tapped in to the screwball spirit of Chappell's script. But without a director or costar who can complement her energy, even she can't save the film. See How They Run is the harmless sort of thing you can watch on an airplane, but its rampant mediocrity annoys.