Would you forward this sketch comedy team to your friends? Evidently millions have. They might be youtube superstars, but the “DERRICK comedy” group (initially formed by several members who happened to be at NYU at the same time and have first names that start with the letter “D”) is hardly a household name. Still, their many online fans should be pleased to hear there is plenty of juvenile humor to be found in Dan Eckman’s Mystery Team (trailer here), DERRICK’s feature film debut, which opens this Friday in New York following a string of successful screenings at Sundance, ComicCon, and on the college circuit.
Ten years ago, three seven year-old kids charmed suburban Oakdale when they formed the “Mystery Team” to solve pee-wee sized crimes. Unfortunately, they are about to graduate from High School, but are still playing detective “Little Rascals” style. It’s just not cute anymore, but these losers can’t let go. To further feed their delusions, an adult-sized case suddenly lands in their lap when a young girl hires them to solve the murder of her parents. Of course, she also has an older sister, who might turn out to have a maturing influence on Jason, the sort-of leader of the trio.
As the three immature investigators—Jason the self-proclaimed “Master of Disguises,” Duncan the “Boy Genius,” and Charlie, not really the “strongest kid in town”—DERRICK’s Donald Glover, D.C. Pierson, and Dominic Dierkes play it faithfully straight, never breaking character to indulge in knowing irony. Clearly, they have an affection for these poorly socialized characters that gives the film an endearing goofiness.
It might be low comedy, but Mystery is pretty funny when the woefully innocent Mystery Team pursues their case into the town’s scummy strip joints and crack dens, encountering all manner of vice for the first time. However, it is rather clear DERRICK is more accustomed to pitching their comedy in short internet-friendly clips. As a full-fledged feature, Mystery often feels stretched and padded. Also, while granted, the workaday storyline is hardly the point in a film like this, the tired evil corporation cliché (in this case a dastardly lumber company) just seems like lazy writing.
As if the case with most good stoner comedies (and bad ones too), Mystery is a very hit-or-miss affair. As it happens, Mystery’s funniest moments are actually also it’s rudest, but ultimately the film is defined by the gentle guilelessness of its three main characters. It opens Friday (12/4) at the Quad.