Adam Brody Is a Stunted Millennial Seeking Redemption in Genre-Bender ‘The Kid Detective’

Adam Brody, an actor best known for playing funny, lovable, nerdy sidekick Seth Cohen on the 2000’s teen episodic drama “The O.C.,” has had his share of supporting roles in the years since the series ended. Now, he finds himself living a more lonely existence as a millennial private eye in “The Kid Detective.” Despite the cutesy title, this is a R-rated feature, an enjoyable blend of dark comedy and film noir with a healthy dose of whimsy.

Abe Applebaum (played by Jesse Noah Gruman as a teen) first made a name for himself as a kid detective solving cases out of his treehouse. Impressed by his crime-solving skills, the locals gave the wunderkind an office in town, complete with his own secretary, the mayor’s daughter, Gracie (Kaitlyn Chalmers-Rizzato). After Gracie, who is also his classmate, goes missing, Abe fails to find her, thus beginning a decline in his career. Now 32, he still has an office and takes on small-scale cases, but the locals are less charmed by him. Like many his age who have failed to live up to their potential, Abe grapples with depression and even abuses alcohol. His parents (Wendy Crewson, Jonathan Whittaker) worry about him constantly.

Enter Caroline (Sophie Nélisse), a local high school student. With her cute sweaters, schoolgirl skirts and colorful tights, she seems like a complete innocent, but looks are deceiving, as she displays a maturity beyond her years. Her boyfriend, Patrick, was recently murdered, and she hires Abe to help her find answers, as the police have fallen short. Predictably, Patrick was not exactly who Caroline thought he was, and the film has some fun when Abe looks into the secret lives of teenagers, but no one is prepared for the dark truth that is eventually uncovered.

Writer-director Evan Morgan succeeds in creating a vibrant world with a colorful cast of characters. There’s Lucy (Sarah Sutherland), Abe’s secretary who dresses like a nineties-era goth and seems over it most days, as well as Calvin (Dallas Edwards), Patrick’s nerdy pal who is secretly in love with Caroline. In an attempt to find some answers, Abe breaks into Calvin’s home, only to find himself in a sticky predicament when he’s caught hiding in his little sister’s closet. Gracie’s gloomy mother (Deborah Tennant), meanwhile, a widow since her husband hanged himself following their daughter’s disappearance, regularly calls on Abe to find her cat.

Morgan also has a knack for writing strong dialogue that is humorous and poignant. When Abe first meets Calvin, he has the unpleasant task of revealing to him, in front of Caroline, some of Patrick’s sexual secrets, and he has an interesting way of being tactful. But one of the most striking lines comes from Mr. Erwin (Peter MacNeill), the elderly high school principal. “Do you ever feel like there is nobility in giving up?” He asks Abe, who seems to really feel this.

There’s a major tonal shift in the final act, and Abe is finally forced to deal with some very adult issues and the official end of his childhood. Brody gives a stellar performance, one proving that Hollywood has kept him on the sidelines for far too long. It’s a very satisfying ending, one that really hits when Abe lets out a cathartic release in the film’s final moments.

The Kid Detective” opens Oct. 16 in select cities.