Daniel Craig's 'Knives Out' sleuth owes a debt to 'Futurama's chicken lawyer
"I declare y'all are in a 12-piece bucket o' trouble."
In case you haven’t heard, Knives Out is A Good Movie and the perfect sweater-weather trip to the theater. The whodunnit plot features a wildly successful mystery writer, a house in the woods, and loveably hideous family full of suspects. But the real pleasure if watching Rian Johnson’s impressive ensemble cast at work, and the clear standout of the bunch is the unexpectedly hilarious Daniel Craig in the role of Detective Benoit Blanc, “the last of the gentleman sleuths.” A soft-boiled gumshoe with a penchant for overcooked metaphors, Blanc speaks with an accent like southern-fried molasses (with an added dollop of emphasis on the “mo”). If you watched the trailers and thought there was something familiar about Blanc you can’t put your finger on, you’re not alone.
Chris Evans, who plays the swaggering Large Adult Grandson Ransom Drysdale with impeccable smarm, refers to Blanc as Colonel Sanders on more than one occasion. When Blanc informs the family he has yet to reach any conclusions about the death of family patriarch Harlan Thrombey’s, Ransom retorts, “What is this, CSI: KFC?”
Blanc never mentions chicken in the film — though he does craft an extended, stupidly wonderful metaphor about donut holes — but there’s nevertheless chicken in the air in Knives Out. You can smell it wafting through on the crisp autumn breeze. You can hear it in every country cluck and homespun aphorism Blanc intones. No, we’re not referring to the moment in the trailer where he says, with a sidelong glance from a high-backed armchair, “I suspect foul play.” (Yes, he speaks with this ridiculous accent throughout the entire film.)
Throughout Knives Out, I found myself mired in thoughts of a minor character from Matt Groening’s love letter to all things sci-fi, Futurama. That’s because “gentleman detective” Benoit Blanc sounds precisely, exactly — indeed, I say incontrovertibly and beyond the shadow of a doubt — like Hyper-Chicken, the go-to lawyer of Planet Express, voiced by Maurice LaMarche. (He also voiced Kif, Calculon, Hedonism Bot on the series, in addition to literally hundreds of other characters in dozens of beloved shows and films ranging from Tiny Toon Aventures to Team America: World Police.) Take a gander at this legal mastermind in action and see if you don’t notice the similarities.
While Blanc never nibbles at his own feathers or otherwise preens himself during his investigation of Thrombey’s demise, he continues to look very good in a suit. Your capacity for enjoying asinine, accent-based humor will likely determine how much you enjoy Craig’s character, and by extension how much you enjoy Knives Out. The Inverse entertainment staff unanimously found the movie quite delightful. However, if you’re not fond of Hyper-Chickens, and you aren’t the sort of person who still chuckles about stuff you saw on TV a decade ago, I reckon y’all might feel rather differently.
At first glance, Blanc seems to belong a long tradition of “stupid like a fox” detectives and prosecutors, like Columbo, The Pink Panther’s Inspector Clouseau, Matlock or Lionel Hutz of The Simpsons. But one of the truly charming things about Knives Out is how it upends those expectations. As the case unfolds, we find out that Blanc isn’t quite the mastermind we thought he’d turn out to be — but he still manages to get to the bottom of things, with a bit of help.
We’d be remiss if we didn’t mention the clear inspiration behind Hyper-Chicken, the ur-Chicken, if you will: Foghorn Leghorn of Looney Tunes fame. Both are anthropomorphic roosters with Southern accents, prone to peppering sentences with “I say.” (While I am not actually certain that Craig utters the phrase “I say” numerous times during the course of the film, I came away feeling as though he simply must have.) The voice actor behind Foghorn Leghorn? None other than the “man of a thousand voices,” Mel Blanc. Coincidence? Probably. But he still sounds like a chicken.
Knives Out, featuring Daniel Craig smothered in country gravy, is in theaters now.