The Kid Detective

Movie review by
Tara McNamara, Common Sense Media
The Kid Detective Movie Poster Image
Dark whodunit comedy has a message; also drinking, drugs.
  • R
  • 2020
  • 99 minutes

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Kids say

age 15+
Based on 1 review

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The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

Believe in how you see yourself instead of how the world sees you. 

Positive Role Models & Representations

Abe uses curiosity and perseverance to solve crimes, but overall he's not much of a role model.


A character is beaten up at a bar. Viewers are told about a teen who is stabbed to death, one who was kidnapped. Implication of a recurring sexual crime to a minor and references to pedophile activities. Suicide, with blood.


Photograph of a nude woman (breasts exposed) who is supposed to be a teen. A man is completely naked, his backside revealed. Sex act is described literally.


Strong language includes several uses of "s--t" and "f--k." "Jesus!" used as an exclamation.


A Chrysler LeBaron convertible is shown repeatedly, but it doesn't come off as particularly cool.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Upon discovering an unknown drug that's a clue, the detective takes it and likes how it makes him feel -- so he takes it a second time (after he's been warned it's addictive). Bong shown on the table at a small gathering. Smoking, including by a teen. Constant drinking to demonstrate depression and feeling like a failure. 

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that The Kid Detective is a comedic mystery about what happens to a prodigy who's burdened by high expectations. Abe Applebaum (Adam Brody) gained notoriety as a child detective who failed when he wasn't able to solve the mystery of his best friend's disappearance. As an adult, he's somewhat of a town joke, and he wallows in his self-doubt and self-pity by drinking heavily; drug paraphernalia is also seen. He takes a murder case involving a high school honors student. Subjects like teen sex, suicide, drug dealing, and homelessness are touched on, but the only character actually taking drugs is Abe. One joke involves him hiding while searching for evidence and getting trapped in a little girl's closet -- when he's caught, the town believes he's a pedophile. Characters smoke, including an older teen girl who's briefly seen nude in a photo. A naked man's bare backside is also shown, and sex is described. Strong language includes "s--t" and "f--k."

User Reviews

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Teen, 17 years old Written bysomethingrather April 28, 2021

Amazing Movie 10/10

The Kid Detective is one of my favourite films of the recent years. Adam Brody is already one of my favourite actors but this (in my opinion) is by far his best... Continue reading

What's the story?

Once Abe Applebaum (Adam Brody) was THE KID DETECTIVE, a hometown hero who was celebrated as a child for his ability to identify the culprit of small crimes. But when his best friend went missing and he couldn't solve the mystery, he -- and the town -- lost faith in his abilities. Now 31, Abe has finally landed his first big case -- and finding the culprit could mean restoring his reputation.

Is it any good?

With humor that's wry, dry, and sly, this mystery spins on reexamining the private detectives of the past by looking at them in a contemporary light. There's no doubt that young Abe Applebaum is supposed to be Encyclopedia Brown: His name sounds like it comes straight from Donald J. Sobol's books (the first one is even titled Boy Detective), as do the types of small-time cases he solves. And, just as Brown's bestie/assistant was 14-year-old Sally Kimball, Abe's is 14-year-old Gracie Gulliver -- and when she goes missing, he believes everyone expects him to find her. What would happen to a "boy genius" if everyone in a child's community, including adults, acknowledged that he was an exceptional prodigy, but then he failed to achieve when it really mattered? It's an astute concept, and it's easy to make the leap to the pressures that society can place on kids who excel. 

Adult Abe glumly goes about his life, following a repetitive daily routine, spiraling in depression, and drinking whiskey for breakfast and dinner. His morose approach is reminiscent of Sam Spade and other gumshoes from the years of classic cinema. This connection might be lost on 21st century teens, but placing the story in a high school setting -- where Abe is sorely out of his element -- helps make The Kid Detective entertaining for both parents and teens. On the other hand, an honors student getting savagely murdered is pretty dark, as are some of the clues Abe turns up. While staying comically nimble, the movie's themes are mature. Still, it holds a worthwhile message for teens. Abe doesn't solve the mystery of how to to grow up painlessly, but, by the movie's end, he offers a clue.  

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about The Kid Detective's message about how others' perceptions affect us. Is it easy to ignore what other people think about you?

  • Do you think this film satirizes, parodies, or pays homage to books and movies about kid detectives? What about classic movies about private eyes?

  • How are drinking and drugs depicted in The Kid Detective? Are they glamorized? Does the movie normalize substance use? Do you think a student warning about the addictiveness of a drug is effective?

  • How do Abe's curiosity and perseverance pay off? Do you think his self-doubt and subsequent self-loathing interfered with his ability to solve the case? What do you think happens next for Abe?

Movie details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love whodunits

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