This debut feature by writer and director Evan Morgan, scheduled for release later this month, is intriguing partly because of its double-edged storyline: the comedy/drama is a detective mystery which contains a larger story of failed hopes and personal growth. Despite the title, which suggests a light family comedy, the humour is sharp-edged and dark, while the drama is often poignant, and the characters remain real and sympathetic enough to sustain interest in their fate.
Adam Brody plays Abe Applebaum, an aimless single man in his thirties, and a comically unsuccessful private detective struggling to keep his business afloat. He is the archetype of early promise come to nothing, a childhood prodigy that did not quite fulfil expectations. As a little boy, he became a local celebrity when he solved a minor robbery case which had baffled the police. As we are shown in a series of flashbacks, Abe goes on to solve multiple local puzzles and misdemeanours using his budding investigative talent, which often amounts to nothing more than common sense and observation. His parents were proud of him, his community supported him, he even made a little money with his skill. His position and his self-confidence went into a dive when he failed to solve a more serious case, the kidnapping of a girl named Gracie, who was never found. The case continues to haunt him and stands as an emblem of his inadequacy as he grows to adulthood.
Years later, Abe is still attempting to rest on his laurels but faces a long string of failed cases, a loss of respect from the townspeople, and open contempt from his hilariously incompetent office assistant. His decline into depression and failure, and the inevitable bankruptcy of his business, is delayed when a new client comes to him, a teenaged girl named Caroline (Sophie Nélisse) asking him to investigate the murder of her boyfriend. The investigation that follows is partly a comedy of errors, in which Abe tries to impress his client with investigative techniques that are always just a shade less than fully effective, and ends up following a series of false leads and narrowly avoiding trouble with the law. At the same time, the investigation leads to darker discoveries: about the town, its high school, and some of its local heroes.
In a parallel plot, Abe begins to uncover more about his own past, including some of the cases he dealt with as a child. Faced with the reality of his failure, of having fallen from early success story to object of ridicule, Abe struggles with depression and lack of confidence, and tries to find new motivation in Caroline’s increasingly difficult case. The characters, even the minor ones, are refreshingly well-rounded, not types, although much of the insight is directed at Abe and his situation. In a series of classic mystery plot twists, all these factors come together, when Abe uncovers information about one of his unsolved childhood cases, leading him to new revelations, hidden dangers, and ultimately, vindication as a detective, rediscovering himself in the process.
Adam Brody is perfect as Abe, providing a nice balance of brash overconfidence, hunger for approval, and extravagant despondency, making the character both funny and pitiable. He and Sophie Nélisse have great chemistry, playing off each other nicely as Caroline unintentionally deflates Abe’s ego, but ultimately serves as his inspiration in solving the town’s biggest crime and regaining his self-respect. The film had a well-constructed storyline, a nice mixture of humour and drama, enough suspense and plot twists to make it as a mystery, and entertainment value throughout.