Movie Review: ‘The Kid Detective’ a winningly offbeat comedy

A once-beloved child P.I. who has found that success as a pre-teen doesn’t necessarily translate into a real career gets his biggest break yet in The Kid Detective, an offbeat comedy that turns into an enthralling murder mystery in the vein of Rian Johnson’s breakthrough Brick.

Written and directed by Evan Morgan, The Kid Detective stars Adam Brody as Abe Applebaum, once the 12-year-old toast of small-town Willowbrook after solving small-time mysteries ripped from the pages of Nate the Great or Encyclopedia Brown. But his skills fail him when faced with a real-world crime, the disappearance of his friend and the mayor’s daughter Gracie.

Twenty years later, Abe is now an adult detective with an office on Main Street, but still stuck solving kid detective stories: chasing missing cats and digging into the truth behind schoolyard rumors.

But he finally gets the chance to solve a real-deal adult mystery after highschooler Tracey (Talyssa Therrien) tasks him with finding out the truth behind the murder of her boyfriend. Taking the opportunity to prove himself once again, Abe digs into the case as deep as he can, even if he’s still well out of his league.

The Kid Detective begins as a cutesy comedy, playing off Nancy Drew tropes like digging inside of drawers and hiding in closets when their owners unexpectedly come home. But as Abe grows into an adult, so does the film’s tone: the real-world implications of being a kid detective at 32 make for an unusual premise, but a surprisingly empathetic one.

The result is an offbeat and entirely winning comedy that never overplays the juvenile nature of the premise, and always takes the real-world implications of its story seriously. Abe is something of a joke, which lends the film its offbeat comic sensibility — but his desire to be more is never lost.

Brody (Shazam, The O.C.) is especially likable in the lead, and he has a nice rapport with Therrien, as his young client, as well as Sarah Sutherland, who plays his apathetic secretary. Wendy Crewson and Jonathan Whittaker are well-cast in support as Abe’s still-doting parents.

Attention to detail is sharp – Abe’s office door has an extra space next to the word “detective”, where “kid” used to be – and production is consistently charming in a lightly Wes Anderson kind of way. A fitting soundtrack makes good use of Nancy Sinatra’s Sugar Town.

Best of all here: there’s a genuinely engaging murder mystery at the heart of The Kid Detective that makes everything else around it work. Like Brick, the setting may be far removed from familiar film noir detective stories, but Morgan’s nuanced script ensures this work just as well.

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Jason Pirodsky

Jason Pirodsky

Jason Pirodsky has been writing about the Prague film scene and reviewing films in print and online media since 2005. A member of the Online Film Critics Society, you can also catch his musings on life in Prague at expats.cz and tips on mindfulness sourced from ancient principles at MaArtial.com.

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