Evan Morgan's The Kid Detective a Darkly Comic Evolution of a Genre

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The Kid Detective

As a kid, Encyclopedia Brown and The Three Investigators (when they still were partnered with "Alfred Hitchcock and...") were a good chunk of my reading adventures. They were relateable to a young audience, and they caught the bad guys by being smart.

Evan Morgan's The Kid Detective evolves that concept by taking that innocence and charm and running it through the wringer of a few decades of reality. When Abe Applebaum was a kid (Jesse Noah Gruman), he ran a detective agency from his treehouse, solving little mysteries for a quarter with his best-friend assistant, the mayor's daughter Gracie Gulliver (Kaitlyn Chalmers-Rizzato). He even got to solve a few locally high-profile cases and became enough of a name that -- when someone spitefully chopped down his tree -- the town gave him his own office downtown from which to operate.

And then Gracie disappeared, abducted, and the Mayberry/Pleasantville aura of the town disappeared with it. Now the town -- and Abe (Adam Brody) -- are a bit grimier and a lot more run-down. Abe still runs the detective agency, barely making a living while his personal life is a mess of ennui and self-loathing.

And then, like a good opening to a Philip Marlowe novel, she stepped in. The 'she' in question is high-school student Caroline (Sophie Nélisse), who brings him a case bigger than any he's ever worked: a murder. Abe must piece together what few clues are left, work with a police chief that has patronized him for years, and find the one thing that will bring justice for a young teenager -- and the answer may just lie in a case Abe resolved for twenty-five cents years ago.

The Kid Detective is very dry and dark humor. Morgan takes pains not to punch up the drama so that the interactions maintain the banality of small-town evil. And yet, at the same time, the evil that does make itself known is bone-chillingly cringeworthy. It's a hard-to-categorize film that sticks with you after, delivering a victory that breaks its hero. Definitely give this one a spin.

Grade: 
4.5 / 5.0