Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Mystery Team premieres in New York

Derrick Comedy's much talked about Sundance submission Mystery Team made its first public screening in New York City last night, and amid all the hype and anticipation, delivered arguably the funniest film of the year thus far.

Mystery Team takes the innocent Encyclopedia Brown/Hardy Boys iconography and explores the idea of what happens when naive kid detectives grow up and struggle to let go while in the crosshairs of an adult world that seemingly has no use for them. It's the absurdist take on this conflict that surprisingly works so well, and supplies the film with a comedic momentum and consistency that makes it so enjoyable.

Jason (Donald Glover), Duncan (D.C. Pierson) and Charlie (Dominic Dierkes) still drink chocolate milk, ride their bikes everywhere, and are confused by their inexplicable unpopularity for continuing their childhood detective agency kowtowing to the whims of the neighborhood's playground population. Yet when an actual double murder takes place, they finally see an opportunity to validate their arrested development, in the hopes of finding credibility for their hard earned lemonade stand diligence.

It's crude, rude, and lewd, yet incredibly charming and funny, with each absurd turn and line of dialogue perfectly punctuated with the appropriate pause of comedic timing. There's sex, drugs, violence and vulgarity to appease their devoted YouTube constituents, but its deft, sweet natured touch makes the film work as a whole.

Transitioning from short-form sketches to a 105 minute full length can be a daunting task for any comedy (see: almost every SNL sketch inspired film), but the Derrick Comedy group succeed in making their absurdism accessible while still being as a silly as they want to be. Glover's performance is a tour de force of mimicry and charm, while his partners in crime Pierson and Dierkes serve as an equally childish and hilarious counterbalance.

The supporting cast is a cavalcade of comedy veterans from the Upright Citizen's Brigade Theater scene, most prominently Aubrey Plaza, alt comedy's It Girl response to indie crush's Zooey Deschanel with a pinch of Janeane Garafalo, new SNLer Bobby Moynihan as a local convenience store Biff Loman, as well as a welcome cameo by original UCB member Matt Walsh who absolutely kills with an unexpected terminal illness joke.

While Mystery Team eventually falls prey to the unavoidable conventions of detective stories, its charming vulgarity makes the expected finale still satisfying. Though it has rightfully drawn comparisons to Napolean Dynamite for its small budget and anticipated cult following, it's widespread appeal could plausibly be likened to the simple sweetness at the core of The 40 Year-Old Virgin: as sweet as a glass of spilled chocolate milk, or losing a wedding ring inside a stripper.

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