“This is breaking and entering. This is illegal.”
“But it’s for justice, so it’s legal again.”
There are certain movies you know you’re probably going to like because of the people associated with it. As I’ve gotten caught up with the NBC comedy Community in the last few months, one of those people is Donald Glover. When I saw he was one of the writers and stars of the independent comedy Mystery Team, I knew I needed to check it out. And I’m glad I did.
Jason, Duncan and Charlie have been the town’s resident boy detectives for practically forever. From who stole a ragdoll to who took a slice out of a neighbor’s pie, no case is too big or small. Unfortunately, their parents and schoolmates have gotten tired of their antics… considering they’re now high school seniors. The trio are put to the ultimate test when they get a real, adult mystery – a double murder.
Each of the guys have a special talent that really isn’t very special. Duncan is the brains, but gets all his information from an outdated facts book. D.C. Pierson plays him as a less annoying Napoleon Dynamite. He’s supposed to be the most uptight of the three, but Pierson keeps Duncan on the funnier side of that, and it is appreciated. When he shares some of his “knowledge” – like the universal rules of hobo society, for instance – it’s funny rather than annoying. Dominic Dierkes is Charlie, the “brawn” who is actually scrawny. That joke gets pushed aside pretty quickly, and we don’t really see it much towards the end of the movie. It’s like that was the original concept of the plot (the brains, the brawn and the leader), but they couldn’t think of enough brawn jokes. The other joke is that he’s the dopey, lovable idiot, which does make for the better jokes.
|Derrick Comedy Productions|
Hands down, the reason to see this movie is Donald Glover. The guy just oozes funny. His character Jason is adorable in his enthusiasm and his cartooniness. Jason is the self-proclaimed master of disguise, which means he dresses up like old-timey stereotypes. When he has to get photographic evidence, he dresses up like a 1920’s reporter (“Wow, what a scoop!”). When Duncan explains the Hobo Laws to him, he goes into Looney Tunes hobo mode, including bindle and top-popped top hat. Glover is never afraid to go full cartoon with the gags, which is what makes it so charming. Oh, and his “ultimate disguise” is just about the most ridiculous thing I’ve seen in a long time. It was definitely the biggest laugh of the whole movie.
Aubrey Plaza plays Jason’s crush, who also happens to be the daughter of the couple murdered. While I loved Plaza in Scott Pilgrim and I like her in Parks and Recreation, I don’t think she does main love interest well. As a character actor, she leans towards this indifferent sort of tone, and the character felt awkward because of it. SNL’s Bobby Moynihan is surprisingly effective as the pathetic grocery clerk that the Team looked up to when they were younger, but whose advice they start to question.
Part of what makes this movie work is how the boys interact with the dirty, dark reality of their town. The frustration of everyone else with these three characters in combination with the trio’s unassuming resilience makes for some very funny moments. There’s a particular scene that is pure raunch, but because the boys don’t fully comprehend what’s going on, it comes off as almost smart funny rather than just gross and overdone. Not many movies can pull that off, but Mystery Team does. And that energy makes the movie that much funnier.
The other great thing about Mystery Team is the actual mystery. It is fun to see the trio put together the clues and actually solve the case. Granted, I figured out who did it pretty early on, but the sinister plot behind the deed was clever. I wasn’t expecting them to actually get on the right track, so that was a pleasant surprise.
The biggest issue with the film is the very end. At first, they do come to a resolution and a good amount of growth. Then, at the last second, something completely random happens and that’s the end. I feel like it was an inside joke that I just didn’t get. The joke they were going for wasn’t even funny, and that hurt the movie.
Overall: If anything, watch Mystery Team for Donald Glover. You’ll probably like the rest of it, too.
3 1/2 out of 5