Saturday, June 12, 2010

Mystery Team (2009)

Funny, but overeager debut film from comedy troupe Derrick Comedy involving three 18 year old amateur sleuths who are given their first big case; a double murder. The sketch comedy aesthetic Derrick is known for has been thrown out the window in lieu of a straightforward narrative in the mold of the Hardy Boys or similar boy detective styles, albeit with a relatively real-world backdrop. The bulk of the humor comes from the juxtaposition of the crew's juvenile, pre-pubescent behavior with the cynicism and deadpan indifference of the world around them (most memorably with a pre-teen boy who talks, and acts, str8 gangsta compared to them). This tends to be the more dominant, and obvious, form of humor throughout, but the true joy for me was watching these obviously real-life friends interact within this comic setting. The weak link of the crew is, ironically, rising star Donald Glover; as an actor, his desperation and desire to stand out from the troupe is tangible, and he only dials in at 9+ where his costars are satisfied with playing scenes at 8 or even 7 when necessary. On his own, which he is towards the third act of the film, his interactions with those outside of Derrick are awkward, and laughably abrasive and obnoxious. But when the crew is together, they have a very strong interplay that carries the flimsy narrative across the finish line, where there is actually a relatively poignant surprise revelation that closes the film well. Also, for a low-budget comedy, there is a distinct visual aesthetic, most obvious in the comedic framing of the three actors at once in awkward, apparantly-staged poses. The director, officially a part of Derrick Comedy, establishes himself as an unseen comedic member of the crew, and I hope his talents remain for their next projects, for he is inseparable from this material, unlike, say, Edgar Wright with Simon Pegg and Nick Frost.

Recommended for fans of Derrick Comedy and/or offbeat, original comedies (albeit with a juvenile tinge throughout).

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