The Kid Detective Review: What Happens When Encyclopedia Brown Grows Up?
Adam Brody … Abe Applebaum
Sophie Nélisse … Caroline
Sarah Sutherland … Lucy
Jesse Noah Gruman … Young Abe
Wendy Crewson … Mrs. Applebaum
Jonathan Whittaker … Mr. Applebaum
Peter MacNeill … Principal Erwin
Lisa Truong … Lisa
Sophia Webster … Jackie
Dallas Edwards … Calvin
Tzi Ma … Mr. Chang
Written and directed by Evan Morgan
The Kid Detective is now playing in theaters.
The Kid Detective Review
The Kid Detective opens with a montage of 12-year old “kid detective” Abe Applebaum solving cases around his neighborhood and enjoying the spoils of war. When he discovers the missing money from the local ice cream shop, the owner gives him free ice cream for life. Later, he is gifted an office in the middle of town to operate his business where he works with everyone from the Mayor to the local police chief on a variety of simple crimes that earn him nationwide celebrity status. Abe even gets a secretary, a young girl he pays in soda pop.
Flash forward some years later and we see Abe, now played by Adam Brody, fighting to get through a single day via alcohol, drugs, and prolonged arguments with his parents. He wanders through a town now devoid of color and littered with vagrants and drug dealers. When he goes to the ice cream shop to get his free scoop, the owner sneers. Even his secretary has been replaced by a woman who dresses only in black and can’t be bothered to answer the phone or fetch water for a guest.
We learn that Abe’s glamorous celebrity lifestyle screeched to a halt when he failed to solve the case of the mayor’s missing daughter, an event that also sent the town into a downward spiral. “I remember when this place was the life of the town on Friday nights,” Abe laments while sitting in a crusty old diner. “When did this town get so cynical?”
So, it goes with The Kid Detective, a film whose plot hinges on solving a grisly murder but whose main purpose is to explore the simple question: what happens when Encyclopedia Brown grows up?
As written and directed by Evan Morgan, in an astonishing big-screen debut, this dark comedy goes deeper than it has any right to and spins a captivating yarn whilst examining everything from the dangers of celebrity worship to the way in which kids in modern society lack proper decorum.
“What am I supposed to do, Abe? These kids have no concept of authority,” moans the tired old principal of the local high school where the nerds now distribute the drugs.
Indeed, everyone in the film seems lost amidst a world they no longer recognize, where even the ordinary, seemingly innocent teenager harbors some deep, dark, shocking secret. “I was so far ahead of the game and then one day I just woke up behind,” Abe exclaims to his beleaguered client, played with doe-eyed innocence by Sophie Nélisse, before wisely proclaiming, “It’s difficult to accept who you are in the head and who you are in the world.”
The Kid Detective follows in the footsteps of quirky film noirs like Rian Johnson’s Brick albeit laced with the dry humor of Chevy Chase’s Fletch. You’ll laugh at Abe’s exploits, such as when he gets stuck hiding in the closet of a suspect and must endure hours of childish antics in a sequence that ends on one of the better smash cuts in recent memory, but also empathize with his person; and Brody does a tremendous job crafting a character who is both likable and oddly detached.
The plot unfolds like a well-written novel and culminates with one of those patented last-second revelations that is both shocking and deeply profound. What do we do when our present fails to live up to our past? Now, that’s a great mystery worth solving.