The Kid Detective review – one of the darkest comedies of the year

4 / 5 stars 4 out of 5 stars.

Adam Brody excels as a former child-prodigy PI in a sharply funny crime caper with an existential bent

Adam Brody in The Kid Detective.
Fear and self-loathing... Adam Brody in The Kid Detective. Photograph: Sony Pictures

Rarely has a film been so underserved by its title. The Kid Detective: it conjures images of a perky, Disneyesque B-movie from the late 70s. In fact, it’s one of the darkest, most astringently bleak comedies of the year – a feature-length howl of existential despair and disappointment, punctuated with jokes. Fortunately, the jokes are bracingly sharp; many – like a running gag about free ice-cream – are seeded early in the picture, to pay off satisfyingly later.

As a precocious 12-year-old, Abe was “the Kid Detective” – a local celebrity and a fixture in the town newspaper. But when a girl went missing and he was unable to rescue her, the town’s grief weighed heavily on his shoulders. Now Abe is a grown man stewing resentfully in the shadow of his hot-shot younger self.

Adam Brody is slyly apposite casting for the lead role: an actor tipped for stardom after The OC and a showy cameo in Thank You for Smoking, he knows a thing or two about the crushing burden of potential. He’s terrific as Abe, nursing an ulcerous sense of self-loathing as his private detective business limps along on missing cat cases and pity. Then a real crime lands in his lap – Caroline’s (Sophie Nélisse) boyfriend was murdered and she wants to know why.

Writer-director Evan Morgan’s deft screenplay balances a taut crime story against a textured character study. The smoky, jazz-infused score works particularly well, both as an ironic joke and as a nod to the seasoned gumshoe that Abe longs to be.

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Watch the trailer for The Kid Detective.
  • In cinemas where available, going wider after lockdown