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Review: 'The Kid Detective' is an odd, funny descent into a small-town darkness

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Sophie Nélisse and Adam Brody in The Kid Detective (Photo: Sony){ }

The Kid Detective
3.5 out of 5 Stars
Evan Morgan
Writer: Evan Morgan
Starring: Adam Brody, Sophie Nélisse, Sarah Sutherland
Genre: Comedy, Drama
Rated: R for language, drug use, some sexual references, brief nudity and violence

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SALT LAKE CITY (KUTV) — Synopsis: 12-year-old Abe Applebaum was a celebrated kid detective. At 32, he’s a public disgrace.

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Review: Turns out finding a missing girl is more difficult than deducing who took the cookies from the cookie jar. Abe Applebaum (Adam Brody) learned that the hard way. Once he had the run of the city. He’s still working out of his city-gifted office and collecting he free scoops of ice cream from the local soda shop, but his legend is one of disappointment and failure.

He’s 25% sober, going nowhere. The last person you’d hire to find out who murdered your boyfriend. Still, Caroline (Sophie Nélisse) has no other options. Abe Applebaum will have to do. Applebaum, the man who never graduated from the trivial crime solving of his youth. We learn that he was thrown off course when he failed to locate his secretary, a classmate, disappeared without a trace. He’s a haunted man. He reeks of desperation.

For most of “The Kid Detective” director/writer Evan Morgan keeps the darkness at bay with a comedic tone. The scenes of Applebaum as a young boy (played by Jesse Noah Gruman) are affable. Applebaum is a charismatic know-it-all, but his confidence is earned. It feels like we’re about to embark on Nancy Drew mystery. You almost expect the Mystery Machine to pull around the corner.

By the time we get to the final act, the lightness has evaporated. You can still root for Applebaum as he tries to display a façade of boyish charm. You can’t believe in him. He’s not up for the task. Turns out finding out who killed Caroline’s boyfriend is as hard as finding a missing girl. Maybe it would be best if Applebaum just stumbled his way off into the sunset.

The narrative moves a little too quickly as pushes towards a suitable end. The emotional impact isn’t quite there. I don’t think it is supposed to feel like redemption, but it also doesn’t quite feel like the emotional release that Morgan intended.

“The Kid Detective” is mostly effective. That’s more than we can say about its lead character. Fans who like a playful mix of black comedy and golly-gee detective work will find a lot to love. Those looking for something that’s just playful will likely find the final act to be too heavy to enjoy. It's a sharp film, handle it with care.