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The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
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."
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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?
- In theaters: October 16, 2020
- On DVD or streaming: January 19, 2021
- Cast: Adam Brody, Sophie Nelisse, Wendy Crewson
- Director: Evan Morgan
- Studio: Stage 6 Films
- Genre: Comedy
- Topics: Friendship, High School
- Character strengths: Curiosity, Perseverance
- Run time: 99 minutes
- MPAA rating: R
- MPAA explanation: language, drug use, some sexual references, brief nudity and violence
- Last updated: January 25, 2021
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