The concept is ingenious: Jason (Donald Glover, NBC’s Community), Duncan (D.C. Pierson) and Charlie (Dominic Dierkes) are three high school seniors who were kid detectives back in elementary school. Imagine Encyclopedia Brown and sidekicks. The boys haven’t outgrown their sleuthing ways and thus, are stuck in an immature state of mind. Jason is still a “gosh oh golly wow” nerd who believes he’s a master of disguises. Hardly. Duncan is supposedly the kid genius with mad skills on the slingshot. Not really. All of his intelligence comes from a dated “fun facts” book and his slingshot aim sucks. Charlie is supposedly the muscle of the group. He’s a wimp, and a dim bulb. As it turns out, the mystery team is all these guys have in common; without it they’d be all alone.
Thing is, the crimes they’ve been solving are the same childish ones they solved when they were ten, such as someone bullying another kid on the playground or someone sticking their finger in an old ladies freshly baked pie. Everyone thinks these guys are a joke: their teachers, classmates, the little preteen punks you tattle on, hell, even their parents. So Jason gets the idea that if they solve a real crime, then people will consider them legitimate crime fighters once and for all.
Enter Brianna, a little girl whose parents were murdered. She wants the Mystery Team to solve the crime and the boys take the case for their usual fee… a dime. Brianna has an older sister, Kelly (Aubrey Plaza, Parks and Recreation). When Jason gets strange new feelings about Kelly (he’s never felt this way about a girl), he decides that they must solve the case.
One of the best sequences in the film involves a trip to a gentleman’s club, which the team believes means dressing in top hats and tuxedos. Needless to say, they’re shocked when the topless dancers (yes, there is nudity) wind up giving Duncan and Charlie lap dances. The entire sequence ends with a chase through the catacombs of the strip bar’s basement. The guys wind up in a disgusting bathroom. To retrieve a key piece of evidence, kid genius, Duncan, has to… oh, hell, I’m not going to spoil that jaw dropping sight gag nor the aftermath. Be prepared to be grossed out, but in a good way.
Time and again, Mystery Team surprised me and had me doubled over in laughter. It would be easy to turn this type of film into a farce, a mean spirited jab at these types of guys who are out of touch with reality. This is something that happens in a lot of Will Ferrell’s films when he’s trying too hard to be funny. Instead, the characters are three-dimensional and you understand why they’re they way they are. Moreover, you feel sympathy for these nerds and actually root for them to come through in the end. Bravo to the actors for committing to the roles and giving the characters depth. Additionally, this is a really well crafted movie. It’s beautifully shot (especially the lighting in the warehouse scene) and there are some excellent stunts and special effects, considering this is a low budget movie.
There is an important theme at play in Mystery Team, the one of friendship. The loyalty that Jason, Charlie and Duncan have for each other is tested as they each begins to grow up and out grow their childish ways. I was surprised that this film moved me, at times. That’s a credit to good filmmaking and an interesting script. Hopefully the people behind Derrick Comedy will make more movies in the future. I’ll be the first in line at the theater.
The DVD comes with Audio commentary from the Derrick Comedy team of Dan Eckman (who directed the film), Meggie McFadden (who produced the film), Dominic Dierkes, Donald Glover and DC Pierson; the featurette“The Making of Mystery Team;” Deleted Material: jokes and moments that were cut from the final film; and more. Unfortunately, there are not any of the comedy team’s online shorts included on the DVD. The film is also available through On Demand and digital download.