' ' Cinema Romantico: Mystery Team

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Mystery Team

Jason, Duncan and Charlie, severely emotionally stunted high school seniors who still swill chocolate milk and, of course, have never partaken in the riches of kissing a girl, have been infamous in their small community for years as the Mystery Team, a bargain priced version of Encyclopedia Brown, taking "cases" proffered by children far younger than they, the only children left in town to give them any respect. But now reality beckons. Graduation is set to descend upon our team and send them off to scary college and the even scarier grown up world. Almost in defiance to this thought, when a little girl implores the Mystery Team to figure out who killed her parents, our somewhat lovable trio, at the desperate urging of Jason, decides to take on a real life murder case and immediately find themselves out of their element, not that they won't keep wading out further and further from shore.

One accusation that cannot be leveled at "Mystery Team" (2009) is tone-deaf. This film, like it, hate it, indifferent to it, decides what it is from the opening scene and remains that way for a full - if stretched - 90 minutes. This is a ridiculous, sometimes gross out (two vomits, one hand-in-the-toilet), comedy that within its own little universe is as serious as "Silkwood."

Jason is the ringleader, meaning he's the most delusional, meaning he sincerely believes at the end of the school year they will open up a real detective agency, and Donald Glover (famously of "Community") treats his character with compassion and respect. Even when he's moonlighting in various "disguises", as absurd as they might be, he's not playing for laughs. He's a 7 year old in an 18 year old's body trying to infiltrate a place he is not supposed to be. He, as he must, finds first love with the as-always awesomely arid Aubrey Plaza, the older sister of the little girl whose parents have died, who at first rebuffs the Mystery Team's attempts at case-cracking, before giving in to their idiotic charms.

Duncan (D.C. Pierson) is the "brains" of the operation, full of random trivia useless to any "case", real world or not. "New Delhi is the capital of India!" He's also the only one with any grasp of a potential future. Charlie is the "muscle", which is to say he's entirely muscleless, and he is played by Dominic Dierkes in a performance that - to this reviewer - fell flat. His timing is actually good but he recites all his lines with an abrupt monotone that seems to leave every one of his punch lines hanging. I get that he's supposed to be a dim bulb but, well, one out of every three dim bulbs is very dull. Dierkes is very dull. He is upstaged by the group's "informant" - a dead-end convenience store employee played eagerly by Bobby Moynihan.

It's weird, I can't say I laughed much at "Mystery Team." Come to think of it, I only laughed out loud, for real, once, at a line involving cancer, which I won't repeat here because if you haven't heard it you deserve to discover it for yourself. But I do not mean to suggest I did not enjoy "Mystery Team." Because I did. I think this is because I tend to prefer, say, the dedicated if entirely hapless community production of "Henry V" as opposed to the facetious modern day spoof of "Henry V." Which might make me a bad person.


Wretched Genius said...

I busted out laughing at "There's something sharp inside of something soft!"

There's an additional Mystery Team short film on YouTube.

Tom Clift said...

I gotta say, I loved MYSTERY TEAM. It really is my kind of humour (which probably make ME a bad person!) Just off the top of my head, the scene where they try to gain entrance into the strip club had me laughing hysterically.

I do agree that Dierkes is easily the weakest of the three leads, but I thought a lot of the minor rolls were quite well acted.

Simon said...

Good sweet Jesus, I loved this movie so much.