Apparently, the videos of the Derrick Comedy troupe have been viewed more than 150 million times on the Internets. So why haven’t I heard of them? I have now, with the group’s inaugural feature film, 2009’s “Mystery Team.” If enough people take the bait, this disc has all the makings of a cult classic.
The titular crime-solving team is comprised of three high school seniors who’ve seemingly never grown up beyond second grade: Jason (Donald Glover, now on TV’s “Community”) is the master of disguise, Duncan (D.C. Pierson) is the boy genius, and Charlie (Dominic Dierkes) is the strongest one in town. The joke is, of course, is that they’re none of these things. The only thing they are is without a clue.
Like Encyclopedia Brown, the Mystery Team has set up shop in the neighborhood to solve whatever cases come its way, for the low retainer of a dime. The caseload is all simple stuff, like pie thieves, until the day cute little Brianna (Daphne Ciccarelle) asks them to find out who murdered her parents. Gulp!
Although they’re clearly way over their heads, the awkward amateur sleuths take the case, partly because Jason has the hots for Brianna’s older sister (Aubrey Plaza, who redefines droll so wonderfully on TV’s “Parks & Recreation“). Their trail of bread crumbs takes the squeaky-clean boys to dark places they’ve never encountered before, like, say, forearm-deep in a backed-up toilet at a super-seedy strip club (“I feel something sharp inside of something soft!”).
If absurdity is your thing, “Mystery Team” might sync to your wavelength. It’s certainly not pointing toward the setting of “mainstream,” and its tone may take some serious acclimation. Should it click, you’ll discover some great gags and game performances, particularly in its bit parts (from “Saturday Night Live” player Bobby Moynihan to “The Hangover” doc Matt Walsh, who delivers the flick’s funniest lines).
Its potential, however, is never fully realized, because director Dan Eckman hasn’t mastered visual pacing that would fine-tune his actors’ comic timing. The effect is odd, as many scenes fall flat simply because they were lensed that way. With more cutaways, alternate angles and simply shorter shots, the entire affair could be amped up for maximum laughs.
But again, this is a no-budget, all-hands-on-deck production, as the brief, behind-the-scenes footage shows. The fact that it got made at all is rather remarkable; too bad the result grossed less than $80,000, because it deserves more. Gather some friends; give it some love. —Rod Lott