Throughout The Kid Detective, one question hung in my mind. “Who is this movie for?” I wondered as Abe Applebaum (Adam Brody) bumbled his way through a mystery. The former child gumshoe, who super sleuthed his way through high school, is now a 32-year-old drunk. Abe cusses and mopes around from one pint to the next. Writer/director Evan Morgan (The Dirties) plays the caper with a light touch with splashes of vulgarity and violence. The Kid Detective doesn’t take proud ownership of its R-rating, though, nor does it sparkle with its juvenile glee. What results is a disappointingly half-baked pie that splatters on the floor.
There is lots of potential here, though, despite the uneven tone and awkwardness. Morgan’s misfire nevertheless displays an admirable attempt to inject subversive humour into commercial CanCon. The Kid Detective also has a fun performance from Sophie Nélisse (The Book Thief, Monsieur Lazhar) as a damsel in distress who hires Abe. She wants him to investigate the death of her boyfriend, since the cops can’t solve his grisly murder. The incident echoes a cases that went awry for Abe during his teen years and has haunted him ever since.
A bit too dark and problematic for child’s play
Abe’s case sends him through a rabbit hole of schoolyard gossip, drug deals, and adolescent jealousy. The Kid Detective has enough yarns to spin a reboot of Sweet Valley High or Veronica Mars. However, the subject matter (rape, incest, pedophilia) aren’t child’s play. Moreover, the homophobia and sexism that flow from Abe’s foul mouth aren’t funny or appropriate for any age. The “jokes” are mostly repellent. An irreverent sense of humour might have pulled it off, but Morgan’s restraint doesn’t let the film nail the landing. Brody also looks hungover throughout the film, as if his performance as Abe is a bit too method and draws upon benders from the night before.
A more seasoned gumshoe might decipher The Kid Detective’s clues in pursuit of its intended audience. However, this kid’s shoes are sadly stuck in the mud.