Did you ever wonder what happened to teenage crime busters the Hardy Boys or Nancy Drew when they grew up? “The Kid Detective,” a new dark comedy starring Adam Brody and now playing in theatres, provides some clues to the mystery of what happens when kid crime busters grow up.
“I used to be a kid detective,” says Abe Applebaum (Brody as an adult, Jesse Noah Gruman as the precocious kid). When he was thirteen-years-old he solved the case of the missing find raiser money and was paid in free treats after he solved figured out who robbed the Mr. Henderson’s Ice Cream Shoppe. When his original “office”—actually a treehouse—was chopped down by a disgruntled criminal he opened a real office on Main Street and paid his secretary (Kaitlyn Chalmers-Rizzato) with soda pop. “Sometimes I would lie awake all night and wonder if I was the smartest person in the world,” he says.
He was loved but when his secretary went missing and he failed to crack the case, the bloom was off the rose. He grew up, or, at least got bigger. Now, almost at the big Four-O he’s living off past glories—“I’m Abe Applebaum! I solved the Case of the Missing Time Capsule when I was twelve years old. The mayor gave me the key to the city!”—while sharing a dingy apartment with a roommate and working out of an even dingier office.
He gets the chance to prove himself when high-schooler Caroline (Sophie Nélisse) asks him to solve the murder of her boyfriend Patrick, who died from stabbed seventeen wounds. This is another level from sleuthing the case of the Missing Basketball Magazines. This is the real deal.
“In this line of work you learn one thing quickly,” he tells her. “Everybody has secrets. No matter how simple a case may seem, it is always shocking what you find. I just want you to be prepared.”
From there the case takes dark twists and turns that you might not expect from a movie with the Disney-fied title of “The Kid Detective.”
Director Evan Morgan, in his feature debut, blends the crime solving of “Mystery Team” and the
noir of “Brick” with the world weariness of “The Big Sleep.” It’s a movie that derives humour from Abe’s relative failure as an adult and grown-up detective but never feels like it’s poking fun at him. Thanks to Brody’s performance we see that Abe is a sad sack who once tasted greatness and wants another sip. “It’s difficult to accept who you are in your head,” he says, “and who you are in the world.”
His feeling of being uncertain of how to reclaim his glory days permeates every minute of his work. The story here is very specific but the themes of nostalgia for a happier time and the need for dignity are universal. “I was so far ahead of the game,” he says. “And then one day I woke up and I was… behind.” Brody pulls this off with equal parts vulnerability and (often misplaced) confidence.
“The Kid Detective” is a low-key movie with a high concept that is a little too in love with its own subtleties. The deliberate pacing, however, pays off with a climax brings the story together as both a detective thriller and character study in an interesting and satisfying way.