"Mystery Team" DVD, Blu-ray Movie Review

5/30/2010 Posted by Admin

DVD, Blu-ray Movie Review

"Mystery Team"

Directed by Dan Eckman, written by Donald Glover, 105 minutes, rated R.

By our guest blogger, Paul Gale

As a huge fan of their online cinematic shorts, I was pumped to see Derrick Comedy’s first feature film, the independently produced "Mystery Team." A logical step in their ascent to comedic reverence, the film, starring Donald Glover of "Community" fame, is a marvelous achievement from the small team of artists and, in terms of production quality, a fantastic sign of the times.

The film’s title card is a sheet of wood with the words "MYStERY TeAM" [sic] meticulously, yet childishly, painted on it. This sign speaks of the young filmmakers' difficult journey of bringing this enjoyable romp to fruition. "Team," an action-comedy about a team of washed-up teenage neighborhood detectives who long for their local-paper-headline days of old, takes the high-octane elements of movies such as the James Bond series, and throws them into a local gumshoe setting.

"All we need is a big case, and people will start respecting us again!" Jason (Glover), the team’s unspoken leader, gripes in the film’s first act. Of course, that case comes, in the form of a husband and wife double murder, and the Mystery Team’s investigation of the crime drives the plot for the large majority of the film.

This clash of contexts, between a real crime and juvenile detectives, is the basis for most of the film’s laugh-out-loud moments, of which there are plenty. Chasing foul-mouthed preteens on monkey bars and participating in a firefight at a lumberyard, the Mystery Team, which consists of socially stunted high school seniors Jason, Charlie (Dominic Dierkes) and Duncan (DC Pierson), manages to brave its way through a whirlwind of hi-jinx during the film’s 105-minute running time.

Glover adeptly juggles his character with its caricatures--a goofy set of fake moustaches and innocently racist voices. The film's youthful and fantastical elements, including Jason’s dressing up as a silent film-style hobo, isolate it from the bulk of today’s comedies and helps to accent its silly imagination, as well as the main characters’ delightfully bizarre worldview.

The film benefits from its R rating, using it to really raise the stakes, construct foils to the boys’ prudishness, and accentuate the action elements of this deft parody.

Aubrey Plaza ("Funny People"), who plays Kelly, a daughter of the deceased, once again employs her nonchalant, disinterested character. She does it well.

Because the narrative is centered around socially immature and squeamish investigators, the movie gets away with being very jokey. Relatively seamlessly, Derrick also fits a lot of their trademark absurdist humor into the plot line. Their youthful pizzazz buys them enough leverage to shamelessly get away with lines like “Kelly, you’re so neato.”

This does not mean that "Team" is a perfect film. The script, while good, is a little simple, and clearly a first for its writer.  Charlie's character is lovable, but his affable antics become tiresome, and his slow reactions a tad too calculated. There also are way too many vulgar shock gags. That being said, I’m excited to see what Derrick is capable of in the future, and with all of its members finding success in their recent move to Los Angeles, I have a feeling that we'll be able to see much more from the NYU grads.

Many familiar faces show up throughout the movie, from Donald’s former "30 Rock" co-worker Kay Cannon as Destiny, a hypersexual trashy slut, to UCB-founder Matt Walsh, who provides comic relief with "30 Rock" actor John Lutz during the film’s most dramatic act. Bobby Moynihan’s Jordy, a depressed but overzealous fan, steals every scene in which he's featured. Moynihan, currently a featured player on "Saturday Night Live," had me rewinding several times to get another glimpse at his incredible delivery, especially in a scene with the film’s director, Dan Eckman.

Like all good comedies, "Mystery Team" has a heart. Kooky mayhem aside, this is a tale of three friends struggling to face the reality of growing up. Through this, the film finds a nice balance of good story, good action and great humor. Having seen the movie’s initial run in New York, I am excited for the rest of the world to see this funny film, and for us all to see what the Derrick machine will churn out next.

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