When you discuss David Lynch normally the first thing people talk about is his surreal, dark imagery, but the man also has a very dry, sometimes wry, sometimes absurd sense of humour, his much loved series Twin Peaks was full of such a thing, and in many ways The Kid Detective mirrors his take on comedy as it features scenes with a skewered take on small town life.
The jazzy Angelo Badalamenti-esque soundtrack makes certain parts feel all the more Lynchian, but it also contains hints of Wes Anderson’s early work and even a sliver of Rian Johnson’s Brick, while at the same time being very much its own thing, which is quite impressive indeed. A comedy drama which examines what it’s like to peak early and then disappoint those you love the most, it’s a fascinating film and one which is consistently captivating.
In a very funny opening sequence we learn that the titular Kid Detective, Abe Applebaum, wasn’t even a teenager when he first began solving crimes, and even when his treehouse was knocked down by an irate criminal he was able to continue as the town paid for him to have an office on the main street. But then his fourteen year old secretary Gracie was kidnapped and presumably murdered, and life for poor old Abe was never the same again as he was unable to solve that particular mystery.
Not that he’s given up being a private eye, but now played by Adam Brody as a despondent man in his thirties Abe is drinking way too much, rarely showering and is beginning to worry as to why his pee smells of fish. His parents have reached breaking point and are no longer prepared to bail him out, and business is painfully slow, until a young teenager is found murdered and after the police are unable to solve the crime Caroline (Sophie Nélisse), the dead boy’s girlfriend, hires Abe to find out what happened.
What follows is a largely sweet natured odd couple picture as Abe and Caroline try to solve the crime while it also gently sends up film noir tropes. Perhaps understandably given his history no one really takes Abe’s efforts that seriously, and the film mines a lot of humour from his attempts at sleuthing, the manner in which some refuse to be interrogated, and Abe’s struggles with drugs and alcohol when everything begins to go wrong.
The ending is an oddly bittersweet moment yet it works effectively, making this more of a character study than a thriller, though the reveal as to what actually happened is a very satisfying one. The film manages to generate humour from every day small town life without it ever feeling like it’s mocking it, and the performances are all superb too with Brody the best that he’s been in years, and despite its influences writer and director Evan Morgan has created a quite original tale here, and one which will likely stay in your thoughts long after you’ve watched it.