TIFF 2020: The Kid Detective, Holler, Monday

Movie

Evan Morgan writes and directs “The Kid Detective,” a decent dramedy with a horrible title. The title refers to Abe Applebaum (Adam Brody), who found success as a crime solver as a kid. He was one of those adorable tykes who had a desk in his treehouse and took cases from neighborhood kids, getting the most attention for solving who stole the money from a school fundraiser. Popular around town, a young Abe thought he might be the smartest guy in the world. And then something major happened. A local girl named Grace went missing, and Abe became obsessed with trying to find her and was destroyed when he couldn’t solve the case.

As an adult, Abe is still trying to solve cases, but he spends most of his days drunk or hungover. He has an apathetic assistant named Lucy (Sarah Sutherland), but his parents (Jonathan Whittaker & Wendy Crewson) are tired of the detective schtick and annoyed that their over-30 son has so little purpose. At its core, “The Kid Detective” is about what happens when we don’t fulfill the dreams of our youth, and how easy it can be to wallow in what’s undone. Abe didn’t become the smartest guy in the world and Grace never came home. Then Abe gets a new case when a local girl named Caroline (Sophie Nélisse) asks him to solve the recent murder of her boyfriend. This is a real case and Abe sees it as a chance at redemption.

“The Kid Detective” is wryly humorous for its first hour or so before getting notably darker, but there’s an undercurrent of melancholy in Brody’s performance throughout that works. Too much of it kind of feels like an aborted TV series visually, but it accomplishes what it sets out to do, even presenting two engaging mysteries. At times it reminded me of other droll P.I. films like “Zero Effect” or “Brick,” and I remembered that I wish there were still making more movies like this, films about people solving mysteries and their life problems at the same time.

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