Mystery Team (2009) Review

Directed by: Dan Eckman
Written by: Donald Glover, DC Pierson, Dominic Dierkes, Dan Eckman
Starring: Donald Glover, DC Pierson, Dominic Dierkes, Aubrey Plaza

(Originally written for Youtube Jan 18 2016)

Mystery Team, created by the comedy troupe Derrick Comedy, was written by, and stars DC Pierson, Dominick Dierkes, and Donald Glover as kid detectives in the vein of the Hardy Boys and Encyclopedia Brown who, while about to enter college, still haven’t entirely grown up.  The trio, who predictably aren’t the most appreciated kids in their high school, try to restore the respect and admiration they had when they were seven by tackling another big case, but find themselves over their head when one of their kid clients pays them a dime (their standard fee) to figure out who killed her parents.

Mystery Team stretches its sketch comedy premise a little thin over its running time, but even the film’s dumbest jokes are very smartly written, and every sight-gag and bit of wordplay is delivered with a confidence and earnestness that would draw a few laughs out of anyone. The high-point of the film is when our detectives follow a lead into a gentlemen’s club while in disguise in top-hats and tails which leads the virginal trio to lose some of their innocence, and ends with one of our leads sticking their hand down a shit-filled-toilet.

What’s surprising about the film is that, while many of the jokes are directed at the heroes’ immaturity and golly-gee-willikers presentation, they’re never really portrayed as incompetent detectives, only naive ones.

And, that works pretty well as a summary of the film’s merits too. A lot of the jokes land, the characters are believably acted; with special note of Donald Glover in his first feature role and the film’s main protagonist, and the plot moves along at a good pace; but the direction and film overall has a loose quality to it that pegs it as the team’s first real project.

I’d guess the reason most people would be interested in Mystery Team today would be to see Donald Glover’s first real starring role, and even here he’s clearly the stand-out, with a charisma, likability, and comic delivery that’s only grown since.

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