Written and directed by Evan Morgan, a once celebrated kid detective, now 32, continues to solve the same trivial mysteries between hangovers and bouts of self-pity. Until a naïve client brings him his first ‘adult’ case, to find out who brutally murdered her boyfriend. Starring: Adam Brody, Sophie Nélisse, Sarah Sutherland, Jesse Noah Gruman, Tzi Ma, Wendy Grewson and Jonathan Whittaker.
It might be easy to misjudge this film as a cheesy, even throwaway watch but give it a change and it will surprisingly get under your skin. The most compelling aspect of The Kid Detective is how it embraces the darkness to its story, slowly creeping up on you but then taking hold, revealing it does have a genuine mystery to play out. Morgan took a risk with that tone and direction to his writing but it sincerely pays off. It’s akin to The Nice Guys for its private dick style but with a touch of the Coen Brothers, creating something playful and sarcastic while being genuinely gripping. There’s a few surprises in story, it’s not as predictable as you may think and it moves at a satisfying pace. The story also holds more weight than expected, there’s a sincerely emotion vein living within it which is a charming surprise. It’s perhaps not going to blow you away or be an example of a perfect script but it also shouldn’t be underestimated.
Morgan’s directorial style captures a 70s-esque atmosphere typical to detective stories. It does so without sacrificing a modern sharpness and fluidity. It blends the two styles in a way that gets the best out of the both of them. Helped by its cinematography (by Mike McLaughlin) that captures both a small town, community feel and a huge dose of the disillusionment of today. It holds your attention extremely well in a casual yet increasingly gripping manner. It moves in such a way to hint at that darkness but not give it away too quickly.
Adam Brody doesn’t always get the credit he deserves, stuck being viewed though a teen series lens but this film shows again he has more to offer. It’s a surprisingly emotional performance that’s also very sarcastic and apathetic. He has the perfect balance of likable and unlikable, he’s a good guy that’s basically forgotten how to be one and needs that nudge to find himself again. None of the supporting cast really get too much time to shine but Sophie Nélisse comes closest; she’s an incredibly reliable actor who easily brings a very relatable edge to her characters and a sincere personality. Tzi Ma gets a brief but impactful appearance and Sarah Sutherland’s goth, uncaring assistant is a nice touch but it would have been better to see her get more involved in the story.
The Kid Detective is a film not to be underestimated, it’s delightfully dark with a surprising vein of sincerity. Brody holds the lead easily and gives a very satisfying performance of nasty and nice. Morgan’s writing and direction are unexpectedly gripping, it sneaks up on you until it’s firmly under your skin, waiting for its big reveal.