Directed by Dan Eckman
After Derrick Comedy won America’s heart a few years back with their breakout youtube sensation, Bro Rape: A Newsline Investigative Report, the troupe could have easily faded into obscurity. They didn’t, as fans of funny online videos can attest, and instead they convinced somebody to bankroll a film in which they star as emotionally stunted teenagers solving playground mysteries. And they made it funny.
Derrick Comedy, if you’re unfamiliar, is far from a one-hit wonder: since Bro Rape, the group has amassed an impressive catalog of absurd, violently impolitic youtubes that have a tendency to get passed around the internet. Much can be debated about the quality or tastefullness of these sketches, but it stands as fact that Derrick can execute a very, very silly idea with admirable dedication–for a quick reference, see apparent fan favorite (13 million views!) Blowjob Girl. With Mystery Team, the troupe has proven that dedication by assembling an entire feature film out of a silly idea.
The titular team is comprised of three best friends and high school seniors who have been in the mystery-solving business since the much more adorable age of 7. Jason (Donald Glover) fancies himself a Master of Disguise; Duncan (D.C. Pierson), the requisite Boy Genius, has a long list of trivia to back up the moniker; and Charlie, lacking any more ambitious delusions, is dubbed The Strongest Kid in Town. Their clientèle and main suspects are still mostly in grade school, and the team hasn’t noticeably matured since their younger years, which seemingly took place in the same hermetically sealed good-old days of the Encyclopedia Brown mysteries. All of this changes, when, on one fateful morning, a young girl commissions the three boy detectives to solve the murder of her parents. That young girl also happens to have an older sister named Kelly, played by reliably mumbly Aubrey Plaza, who arouses confusing feelings in Jason.
For much of its run, Mystery Team resembles a Disney Channel original movie with it’s swelling orchestral arrangements and unstoppable enthusiasm. As such, even when the flick gets dark, and it does, there is never a moment of true menace. But the humor of Mystery Team, much like the late Comedy Central series Stella or Corky Romano (remember that?), lies in the gaping incongruity between that safe, ultra-wholesome world that the protagonists inhabit and the actual world. In one scene, the trio finagles their way into a “Gentlemen’s Club” by donning tuxes and top-hats and rambling on about their love of bear-baiting (Charlie simply proclaims: “England!”). In another, they visit a cocaine dealer dressed in matching letterman sweaters and order “eight balls.” And, rest assured, Jason’s overboard disguises are never not funny.
Told from the team’s perspective, the movie portrays every sordid outing with the same sense of innocent adventure, and the team-members’ naiveté only gets funnier as the characters around them get seedier. The fish-out-of-water theme is helpfully cohesive and sustrains the film commendably well. Occasionally, Derrick’s efforts to stretch out it’s insubstantial plot are visible, but even in the rough patches, Mystery Team is peppered with great lines.
Derrick’s film is about as emotionally poignant as Derrick’s sketch work–all the emotional conflict is played for laughs—which is fine because the feature is more consistently funny than their sketches. In Mystery Team, the group has room to breath and characters to play around with, and they seem to have benefited from this approach. Sadly, the vulgarity here isn’t as inspired (read: dark and off-putting) as in their best sketch work, and sometimes comes off as lazy. But even the jokes that fall flat are usually saved by the team’s persistent obliviousness. As you can imagine, the raunchy events that occur within the Gentlemen’s Club aren’t pleasant, or all that clever, but the team’s genuine befuddlement is perfect.
If you’re still not sure whether you want to see this film or not, than you haven’t watched either of the videos I linked to above. But for those of you who ever e-mailed Bro Rape to a pal, or pulled up Keyboard Kid just to cheer yourself up, Mystery Team is gonna make it so dry for you.