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Evan Morgan
Adam Brody, Sophie Nélisse, Peter MacNeill
Writing Credits:
Evan Morgan

Now in his 30s, a once-celebrated kid detective continues to solve the same trivial mysteries between hangovers and bouts of self-pity - until a naive client brings him his first "adult" case.

Rated R.

Aspect Ratio: 2.39:1/16X9
English Dolby 5.1
Supplements Subtitles:

Runtime: 100 min.
Price: $19.99
Release Date: 1/19/2021

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The Kid Detective (2020)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (September 23, 2021)

Given its title, one might expect The Kid Detective to offer a Nancy Drew-style flick for youngsters. Instead, it gives us a look at what happens to a prodigy who grows up and doesn’t fulfill his potential.

As an adolescent, Abe Applebaum (Jesse Noah Grumanb) gains notoriety as a youthful crime-solver. However, when his classmate Gracie Gulliver (Kaitlyn Chalmers-Rizzato) disappears, Abe can’t find the culprit, and his failure ruins his reputation.

20 years later, Abe (Adam Brody) still works as a detective, but his inability to rescue Gracie haunts him. Abe barely ekes out a living with a mix of low-rent clients and sporadic employment.

After 16-year-old Patrick Chang (Lian McLean-Smits) gets murdered, his girlfriend Caroline (Sophie Nélisse) recruits Abe to solve the case. This leads Abe on a journey that involves both the current crime and his unresolved past.

Given that it came out during the COVID-19 pandemic, Detective found next to no audience theatrically, and I suspect the title didn’t help. I’d guess that many prospective viewers figured the movie offered wholesome family-friendly “PG” fare, not an “R”-rated dark comedy.

Not that I think Detective would’ve found a mass audience with a better title and/or a release pre-pandemic. An understated mix of comedy and drama, it doesn’t offer the “crowd-pleasing” nature that would spread it to a broad crowd.

Don’t take that as a criticism, for I really appreciate the movie’s intensely low-key manner. Whereas the premise pushes toward wacky silliness, the story goes in the other direction, and that makes it all the more effective.

As a comedy, Detective offers what I’d call a “laugh in your mind” kind of affair. Sure, I chuckled a few times, but this isn’t a real knee-slapper, as its humor remains wry and dry.

Oh my, does Detective offer a dry affair! It’s the cinematic equivalent of Death Valley, as it rarely embraces strong emotions.

Instead, Detective keeps Abe and most of the others as subdued to the point of near blankness. However, this reserved feel seems surprisingly believable, as the film never embraces the contrived stiffness of the Wes Anderson oeuvre.

That comes as a massive relief, as Detective could – and probably – should turn into a twee, painful exercise in wink-wink nudge-nudge. As noted, the basic premise sounds tremendously “high concept”, but the movie never suffers from those pitfalls.

Rather than truly embrace the absurdity of the movie’s basic concept, Detective prefers to explore how Abe’s youthful success weighs on him and pushes him to pursue redemption. Abe clearly hopes that if he solves Patrick’s murder, he can finally erase the stigma related to Gracie’s disappearance.

This happens, but not in the way the viewer might expect. Not to spoil it, but the movie’s finale offers a surprising emotional twist that seems likely to prompt discussion.

The path toward that conclusion proves effective, partly due to the aforementioned understated tone. Where another movie would shoot for wild laughs, Detective stays wry and subdued, and it benefits from that approach

The actors help, as they avoid the flat blankness that mars Wes Anderson movies. While Brody plays Abe in a reserved manner, he still manages some emotion and seems like a complex human being.

Really, Brody’s performance helps tie together the movie. If he’d opted for a showier style, he’d have undercut the film’s strengths, but since he makes Abe a bit of an enigma, he adds power to the project.

Detective doesn’t do everything right, and parts of its climax seem a bit far-fetched. Still, it mixes comedy and drama in a satisfying manner.

The Disc Grades: Picture B/ Audio B-/ Bonus D-

The Kid Detective appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.39:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. This effort came with a fine presentation for the SD-DVD format.

Overall definition looked positive. Softness crept into wider shots, but the majority of the movie offered nice delineation and accuracy within the DVD capabilities.

No issues with jaggies materialized, and I witnessed no signs of edge haloes or source flaws. Some light moiré effects occasionally impacted clothes but these instances remained minor.

Detective opted for a lean toward the usual amber and teal. The disc reproduced the hues in a reasonable manner.

Blacks seemed dark and dense, while low-light shots offered good smoothness and clarity. Ultimately, the image was more than satisfactory given the limitations of SD-DVD.

In addition, the movie’s Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack suited the material. Music dominated the proceedings, and the score used the various channels in a reasonable manner.

Effects had less to do, as they focused mainly on ambience. Given the emphasis on music, that was fine, and the sides/surrounds provided enough material to succeed within their limitations.

Audio quality also pleased. Again, music became the most dominant aspect of the mix, and the songs/score boasted fine range and impact.

Speech came across as natural and concise, whereas effects seemed accurate and realistic. Nothing here dazzled, but the track worked for the movie.

The disc opens with ads for The Last Shift, Yellow Rose, The Broken Hearts Gallery, Monster Hunter and The Craft: Legacy. No trailer for Detective appears here.

Based on the title, one might expect The Kid Detective to offer a tale for pre-teens. Instead, it becomes a deft mix of comedy and drama that offers a compelling look at how youthful expectations become adult disappointments. The DVD offers generally positive picture and audio but it lacks bonus materials. This turns into a solid character tale.

Viewer Film Ratings: 4 Stars Number of Votes: 1
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