'The Kid Detective' Finds the Dark Humour in Being a Washed-Up Manbaby Directed by Evan Morgan

Starring Adam Brody, Sophie Nélisse
'The Kid Detective' Finds the Dark Humour in Being a Washed-Up Manbaby Directed by Evan Morgan
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Adam Brody is best known as hapless heartthrob Seth Cohen in teen melodrama The O.C., so there's something cosmically appropriate about his role in The Kid Detective, in which he stars as a washed-up adult basking in the glory of his youthful successes. With his Chuck Taylors, casual blazers and messy hair, the 40-year-old Brody even looks like an all-grown-up version of his most famous character.

Brody plays Abe Applebaum, a onetime child sleuth who previously rose to local fame with his Encyclopedia Brown-style crime solving. He's still haunted by an unsolved missing person's case from his early days that spoiled his once-impeccable reputation, and now he's a bit like Jessica Jones minus the superpowers — underemployed, drinking too much, full of cynical wisecracks. His dad (Jonathan Whittaker) mercilessly mocks his floundering career, and in one particularly funny (and pathetic) scene, Abe realizes that the bad guys on his tail are actually his own parents trying to keep an eye on him.

Abe has a chance to get his detective business back on track when he picks up a big new case: high school student Caroline (Sophie Nélisse) hires Abe to solve the brutal murder of her boyfriend, Patrick Chang, leading Abe down a rabbit hole of drug rings and awkward stakeouts of children. The whole thing is a bit like 21 Jump Street with a jet-black sense of humour and an undercurrent of gumshoe film noir.

The comedy is vicious: a stone-faced crack about parents dying in a skiing accident is particularly ruthless, and Brody devestatingly deadpans the punchline "I wasn't masturbating" while on the verge of tears during a tense moment. Jokes about a gay dad and a fat friend perhaps venture a little too far into edgelord territory, but the laughs mostly outweigh the snark.

Along with the jokes, the real victory of The Kid Detective is the way it taps into genuine emotion with its depiction of how a once-promising life can go off the rails. Chalk it up to Brody's moody manbaby performance, composer Jay McCarrol's jazzy noir score, and writer-director Evan Morgan's nuanced script for delivering a detective story that's as biting as it is wacky. (levelFILM)