The World Famous Kid Detective

Movie review by
Barbara Shulgas..., Common Sense Media
The World Famous Kid Detective Movie Poster Image
Slow-moving, low-budget mystery has some violence.
  • NR
  • 2013
  • 62 minutes

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A lot or a little?

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

Positive Messages

Even flaky people may do the right thing in the end. Family is important.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Ten-year-old Stanley picks up his younger sister from school, feeds her dinner, and looks after the house when their mother is hospitalized for diabetes. He is responsible but also cynical, the way detectives in 1940s noir movies are. He lives by a code of honor -- he claims he'll risk his own life but not take an innocent down with him. Cousin Addison dresses goth and pretends not to care but comes through for her younger cousins in the end.

Violence

A brief long shot clip of a black-and-white noir film shows a man in a suit and hat slapping a woman around. Stanley suggests, seemingly as a joke, that more social workers should be hanged. Stanley states that his rock-and-roll guitarist father died years back during a performance when a stage collapsed.

Sex
Language

The latter syllable of "bats--t" is bleeped in its single usage. "Dingbat."

Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that The World Famous Kid Detective is a 2013 family adventure. This story about an old-beyond-his-years 10-year-old boy detective is largely comic, but it features young children fending for themselves after the hospitalization of their mother. They evade a social worker and enlist a sullen older cousin to keep them out of child services and foster care. The death of the boy's musician father during a stage collapse is mentioned. A character suggests, seemingly as a joke, that more social workers should be hanged. The latter syllable of "bats--t" is bleeped in its single usage.

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What's the story?

Stanley Kid is a 10-year-old in a tie, trench coat, and fedora, nostalgic for simpler times as represented in the black-and-white noir film clips of the 1940s that provide the movie's backdrop. He speaks directly to the camera in a high, prepubescent voice, using language reminiscent of Raymond Chandler novels: "It nagged at me like a mosquito bite in the middle of my back that I can't reach," and his detective life is filled with "batty dames." His father is dead, and his mother has recurring health problems, all of which has made him grow up too fast. The last time his mother went to the hospital, he and his sister were taken by a social worker to foster care. He plots to avoid this fate again, enlisting his goth cousin, Addison, to stay with him and his sister. Although she is no model citizen, at 18 she qualifies as an adult supervisor, and that will keep Children's Services away. He also must stop a local crime wave and solve the mystery of who is behind the thefts.

Is it any good?

While the idea has promise -- a boy who loves the world of noir fiction and film so much that he "works" as a detective -- the execution leaves much to be desired. Lines are delivered in the familiar singsong of the untrained performer, and staging is awkward. This sounds technical, but audiences used to polished commercial film and television will, consciously or unconsciously, read these deficits as signals of amateur work. The tone is largely comic, but adult viewers will worry about young children forced to care for themselves as a normal part of their lives. The situation brings out their survival skills and maturity, but it also feels worrisome that the kids live with no adult supervision. The message may be that kids can live out their important fantasies without interference by adults, and this effort to de-emphasize adults is underscored by the choice to present adult characters only from the neck down, sometimes only by close-ups of their shoes. There are better mysteries out there.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the relationship between the brother and sister. Why do you think he treats her gruffly? When he picks her up from school and makes dinner for her, do you think those are signs that he cares more than he lets on?

  • Stanley likes to use his brain to solve mysteries. Do mysteries make you think? Do you like figuring things out?

  • When Stanley discovers who stole the skateboards and the cell phone, he doesn't tell the victims the true identity of the thieves. Why do you think he does that?

Movie details

For kids who love mysteries

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