CATEGORIES Comedy, Sundance, Theatrical Reviews, Sundance Reviews 2009, Reviews, Sundance Film Festival, Cinematical
It's Encyclopedia Brown meets Napoleon Dynamite with a pinch of Ace Ventura ... and it's hilarious.
The Derrick Comedy troupe arrived at Sundance with a snot full of sketch videos and a massive internet fanbase. Sure, these were a group of kids from NYU who struck a cord with the YouTube audience and never looked back -- but a series of short online comedy bits and random late night improv are one thing; opening a feature film at the Sundance Film Festival is a completely different ballgame. Thankfully, with Mystery Team, these boys hit one way out of the ballpark, producing not only the funniest comedy I've seen at the fest so far, but one that definitely has the potential to stand toe-to-toe with the finer comedies of 2008 and the most hyped of 2009.
Inspired by Encyclopedia Brown, the Mystery Team are comprised of three kid detectives who run around with big magnifying glasses and several cheap, cliched disguises solving neighborhood whodunits, like who stuck their fingers in Mrs. What's-Her-Name's freshly-baked pie. Only problem is they're 18-year-old high school virgins who should've grown out of this detective phase back when they were seven. The entire community laughs at them, except for Jordy, the half-brain-dead doofus (aka the Mystery Team's "inside informant") who works at the 24-hour hole in the wall. However, when a tiny neighborhood girl asks the Mystery Team to find out who killed her parents, the guys that spend their days solving lame schoolyard pranks are forced to take their game up one giant, life-threatening notch.
The three members of the Mystery Team are Jason (Donald Glover), the master of disguises, Duncan (D.C. Pierson), the boy genius, and Charlie (Dominic Dierkes), the skinnier-than-Victoria-Beckham "muscle". Unfortunately for all three boys, solving a real-life murder is a little out of their league -- considering all their files and prior cases involve reckless children and a creepy old man who's on life support. That is, until the boys get a tip from Jordy that leads them to a homeless guy who may have some crime scene evidence in his shopping cart, and from there the boys stumble into a number of scenarios that are way too dangerous (gun fights and hostage situations) and way too hilarious (a strip club scene featuring a foul-mouthed kid and a nasty sight gag absolutely steals the show).
As actors, the three boys give us one step above sketch humor -- the performances are nothing to write home about (especially from some of the supporting players), but the script, expert comedic timing and larger set pieces cancel out most of the film's other missteps. Similar to The Brady Bunch Movie, Mystery Team relies on the audience member buying into their fish-out-of-water shtick. If you don't dig the concept -- think its humor is too Napoleon Dynamite-esque and not original enough -- then you won't have a fun time. Clearly this is Derrick Comedy's Super Troopers -- it's a silly, stupid, ridiculous comedy that when it works, it really works, and when it doesn't, there's still a laugh or two to be found. Is it for everyone? No. Like Kids in the Hall or Broken Lizard, Derrick Comedy are going to have hardcore fans who get their humor, as well as a whole mess of folks who don't like it all. Such is life.