'The Kid Detective' Review: Adam Brody & Sophie Nélisse Solve A Mystery In This Scrappy Comedy
From the obscure land that also goes by the name of Canada, comes director and writer Evan Morgan's first feature film The Kid Detective which premiered at TIFF last fall and then found its way to digital platforms where movies mostly go to live or die based on the amount word-of-mouth momentum they pick up. To me, it's a great sign if you see a title come up three times by three completely different sources as this little mystery comedy managed to reach that barrier and I can totally understand why now. Comedies especially have a hard time with that as they are naturally a bit divisive, amplified further when the jokes and themes are on a darker side like in this case. When everything in that mix just flows naturally, it's easy to champion those underdogs more in a time when studio comedies have shifted shapes and forms. This film's mix is wonderful; funny bits hit, truthful moments have a bite to them, editing is brisk and the lead is perfectly suited for their role.
That lead is Adam Brody who stars as the eponymous private detective Abe Applebaum who got his start and the nickname as a teenager when he began to solve mysteries around the town of Willowbrook. Abe is now 30, self-medicating with alcohol and drugs and feeling self-failure when he gets an offer from high school student Caroline (Sophie Nélisse) to solve her boyfriend's murder, something cops couldn't do and one which would be Abe's first murder case. Since it is essentially a whodunit, the mystery is better left unexplained but over the course of Abe's investigation, he is also facing himself for the first time - formerly being the ''man(kid) of the town'' and then turning into a washed-up who had a case as a kid about his friend that he was never able to solve. It's a genuinely great story which isn't predictable at all and one that reaches beyond the mystery at hand.
Putting mysteries aside for a second, it's important to remember that we are talking about comedy and how that is perceived by the overall humour and its delivery. The dark humour present is great but it's also emphasised by unusual physical qualities such as in a scene where Abe confronts local emo kids, perhaps highlighting his emotional immaturity. Those moments give the film real spirit and they are also where Brody really shines. I've never seen him in a lead role before but this really screams perfect match of character and actor, deadpan journey with a resonating ending for Abe has a great arc for Brody to delve into. His comedic timing stands on its own, however Morgan and his editor Curt Lobb also seem to have the same metronome ticking, making the jokes land even harder. There are few moments in the film where some things are built around the characters but don't really give viewers anything valuable (Abe getting arrested, his assistant and roommate, final mystery reveal). That though is pretty common in your first features and when you find your directing voice later, those moments with characters typically become more impactful in follow-ups.
Smileys: Humour, Adam Brody, editing, story
Frowneys: Minor characterisation issues
I would also pitch this concept as a miniseries for anyone willing to listen, not even kidding.