The Kid Detective (4 stars)

The Kid Detective

Adam Brody makes the most of the spotlight in this smart and ultimately subversive crime comedy

Back in the early 00s Adam Brody's role as sarky teen Seth Cohen in TV's The OC looked set to make him a star. Although he's been hovering likeably on the peripheries, it's not quite worked out that way, but this rare leading role suggests we should give him another shot. With shades of The Nice Guys and Bored to Death, The Kid Detective introduces us to a private dick and former child sleuthing prodigy who is washed up, aged just 32.

As a 12-year-old, Abe Applebaum (played by Jesse Noah Gruman as a kid, then Brody) ran his detective agency from his treehouse, before someone chopped it down. Now a veteran of over 200 mysteries, he's a scruffy, despondent shadow of his former self, haunted by his failure to solve the disappearance of the mayor's daughter, who acted as Abe's secretary during his heyday. His worried parents (played by Wendy Crewson and Jonathan Whittaker) are on his case, but the murder of a local teen brings the boy's girlfriend Caroline (sweetly bemused work from The Book Thief's Sophie Nélisse) to Abe's door, and with her the possibility of redemption.

Evan Morgan, who co-wrote 2014's The Dirties, is the writer-director here, making his feature debut. He's come up with a neat concept, toys winningly with genre cliches and there's a touch of Wes Anderson-like whimsy to his depiction of the young Abe, which is sure to go down well. The script and execution are very witty but it's the casting of Brody that makes it. Not only was he a young, nerdy star-in-the-making himself, but his ability to mix notes of genuine melancholy with sardonic charisma helps give this predominantly comedic film an extra dimension of unease and underlying sincerity – something that really pays off when it takes a turn for the sinister and subversive in its final throes.

Available to watch in selected cinemas from Fri 20 Nov.

The Kid Detective

  • 4 stars
  • 2020
  • Canada
  • 1h 37min
  • 15
  • Directed by: Evan Morgan
  • Cast: Adam Brody, Sophie Nélisse