The Kid Detective is a whip-smart movie that mixes a sixties retro spy film (incl. magnificent score that sets the mood) with contemporary ideas and a whodunnit at its center. It’s also an engrossing take on a coming-of-age story that cleverly revolves around a once successful kid detective who’s now all grown up and still thinks he’s hot shit.

Once upon a time, Abe Applebaum was a celebrated small-town 12-year-old sleuth, exposing minor indiscretions and making major headlines in his idyllic community. Now that he’s 32, nobody cares anymore. Abe (Adam Brody – ‘Ready Or Not‘) tries drinking away the self-pity, losing sense of time, and still solves the most trivial mysteries. Still bearing the guilt on his shoulders of a missing persons case he was never able to solve, he takes on his first ‘adult’ case. This one comes from sixteen year-old Caroline (Sophie Nélisse – ‘47 Meters Down: Uncaged‘), a naive former client whose scholarly boyfriend was found murdered. Together, he and Caroline embark on an investigation, without any clues and not a chance at being taken seriously by their own community. Determined to prove he’s a real detective, Abe confronts a growing darkness at the center of his decaying town, facing truths that will shatter what’s left of his boyish innocence.

Written and directed by Evan Morgan, his directorial debut looks and feels authentically polished, with a witty script that gets surprisingly dark in the second half, without ever losing its charm. The essential story is engaging, taking us on an exciting murder mystery, giving us the opportunity to solve this murder with Abe. Brody is terrific. Watching his screwy performance, we are transported to a small town where rarely anything happens. His colourful neighbours have their own set of secrets that might seem trivial, but hide some darker elements that distract us from the real evil this town hides in plain sight. Nélisse is a wonderful companion, who perfectly balances Brody’s more grumpy pessimistic performance. Most of the supporting cast does a wonderful job, with Sarah Sutherland (‘VEEP‘) as Abe’s goth secretary Lucy stealing the show, and the usually terrific Wendy Crewson (‘October Faction‘) and Jonathan Whittaker (‘The Expanse‘) as Mrs. and Mr. Applebaum feeling terribly miscast.

At some point there’s a tiny wink at Brody’s character in Jennifer’s Body, when he references devil worship. The Kid Detective‘s strongest asset is Brody himself, with an unfiltered dark sense of humour. Not only does the atmosphere of the film sits right from the start, it’s just a joy to sit back and relax while taking in the pure bliss that comes from these actors clearly having a great time. Evan Morgan has built a world, that could easily have worked as a series. The story wraps things up nicely with a few unexpected twists, marking this film the most entertaining film I’ve watched at TIFF20.

Brody’s wildly fun performance makes The Kid Detective an unquestionably delightful experience, taking the mystery sub-genre to comedic highs while throwing a sincere adult coming-of-age story in the mix that’ll make you grin from ear to ear.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

TIFF20 Review – ‘The Kid Detective’

Reviewed online (as part of TIFF’s Industry Selects), September 13, 2020. Rating: TBC. Running time: 97 min.

PRODUCTION: A levelFILM release (Canada) of a Woods Entertainment, JoBro Productions & Film Finance production. Producers: Jonathan Bronfman, Williams Woods.

CREW: Director/screenplay: Evan Morgan. Cinematography: Michael Robert McLaughlin.

WITH: Adam Brody, Sophie Nélisse, Wendy Crewson, Jonathan Whittaker, Peter MacNeill, Tzi Ma, Sarah Sutherland, Maurice Dean Wint, Jesse Noah Gruman, Sharon Crandall.

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