' ' Cinema Romantico: The Kid Detective

Thursday, November 04, 2021

The Kid Detective

“The Kid Detective”, as it turns out, is not really a kid, but a thirtysomething man, Abe Applebaum (Adam Brody). He was once a Kid Detective in the mold of Encyclopedia Brown, star of Willowbrook, graduating from a treehouse to a real office with a secretary. Rather than move on to something else, however, he stayed as he was, like if David Wooderson in “Dazed and Confused” didn’t hang around long after graduation to hook up with girls and deal pot but to solve the cases of missing cats. The townfolk who once looked at him as a rising star now look at him with commiseration and contempt, including his parents. His youthful roommate makes Abe feel like a college dropout who never got around to leaving town. All seems lost until a real case provides the chance to prove himself, as writer/director Evan Morgan niftily turns the old noir chestnut about the P.I. looking to make one last stand in a life that has let him down into an immature man’s last chance to grow up.

Spurring him toward growth is high-schooler Caroline (Sophie Nélisse), who walks into Abe’s office one day asking him to find out who murdered her boyfriend. Abe expresses shock that she could care so much about him, given that they dated but a few months, though she points out their relationship was in high school years, a comically acute rendering of how time speeds up as you age, leaving you in the dust, which is how Abe looks sitting there, like someone left in the dust of past glories. There is something nifty in the casting of Brody, who got his break nearly 20 years ago in Fox’s teen drama “The O.C.”, meaning that sorta like Jason Priestley before him, Brody was effectively aged into high school forever, ensuring teenagedom is how we would always think of him, even as years passed and he got bigger, older, lines on his face. Brody himself has copped to how much of his “O.C.” character Seth Cohen he still carries with him, how people see him through that prism. And that some of Seth Cohen will always be in Brody intrinsically makes his playing the part of Abe Applebaum funnier, like someone trying to shake out all those misconceptions of his youth, still stuck playing a part he is simultaneously trying to leave behind.

The ensuing investigation involves myriad tropes of the genre, like snooping around a house and hiding in a closet when the homeowners return, or being tailed by some mystery car. Each of the payoffs might be sidesplitting but Morgan is not simply seeking to send up the genre. No, in the comic reveals he is rendering Abe as something like a pitiable figure, furthered in the parallel revelation of an unexpected blind spot in his sleuthing past, that his ostensible gift might just have been nothing more than innumerable adults patting him on the head. This injects “The Kid Detective” with an unexpected sense of tragedy that fully blooms with the ultimate reveal. And if the surprisingly heavy reveal might be at odds with the low-key whimsy preceding it, that’s the point, Abe crossing the threshold into adulthood and discovering there’s just a meanness in this world.

No comments: