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Film / Mystery Team

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"This is real detective stuff!"

When they were seven years old, the Mystery Team were three kids living in the same neighborhood in Oakdale who played at being precocious pre-teen detectives. With Jason (Donald Glover) as "the Master of Disguise," Duncan (DC Pierson) as "the Boy Genius" and Charlie (Dominic Dierkes) as "the Strongest Kid in Town," they would spend their afternoons getting to the bottom of such crimes as missing tricycles and stolen pies, charging ten cents (or fruit roll-ups) for their services.

However, while their peers have moved on to more mature pastimes now that they're eighteen years old, Jason, Duncan and Charlie are hopeless nerds stuck in pre-adolescence as they prepare to graduate from high school. Convinced all they need to do is prove their crime-busting talents to regain the respect of their peers, the Mystery Team step into a new class of detective work when a little girl asks them to find out who killed her parents.

The guys are up for the challenge, but it isn't long before dealing with real (and truly dangerous) criminals gets them in hot water...

Created and produced by members of the Derrick Comedy troupe, Mystery Team received its world premiere at the 2009 Sundance Film Festival.

Mystery Team provides examples of the following tropes:

  • Abusive Parents: Hinted at with Charlie's dad a couple of times.
  • Achievements in Ignorance: Even though the trio know nothing of investigative protocol and aren't good at the things they think they are, they do manage to track down Leroy. And Jason deduces that Robert is behind the murders.
  • Affectionate Parody/Deconstructive Parody: Of Kid Detective series in the Encyclopedia Brown / Three Investigators mode
  • The Aggressive Drug Dealer: Jason offers this explanation when he can't tell Kelly the real reason Leroy is after him.
  • And the Adventure Continues: As Jason is leaving for his private investigator's class, he and the others come across a man with amnesia who has a picture of him with a camera.
  • Asshole Victim: Leroy was a ruthless thug who could kill two people without a shred of remorse. It's likely no-one cried when they found out he was dead.
  • Brick Joke: While talking to Kelly, Jason sees her Forensic Pathologist book and looks in and sees a photo of a victim, exclaiming "Somebody stole that guys' face!". That line is uttered again when the cop sees Robert after Duncan takes him down with a slingshotted firecracker.
  • Cannot Tell a Joke: Charlie tells a funny, fitting joke... and then proceeds to tell the EXACT SAME JOKE not one minute later, in an entirely inappropriate situation.
  • Cheerful Child: Brianna, the girl who hired the Mystery Team in the first place. Well, cheerful for a girl whose parents just died.
  • Cloud Cuckoo Lander: Jamie. The Mystery Team also has shades of this, mainly because of their childish behaviour.
  • Coincidental Accidental Disguise: One of Jason's disguises actually works because it so happens there's a costume party in the building and the guard assumes he's there for that rather than buying his claim that he's a mexican plumber.
  • Coitus Uninterruptus: When Jason unintentionally walks into a private room in the strip club.
  • Country Matters: Leroy uses it on his girlfriend Destiny.
  • Cringe Comedy: All over the place
  • Deconstructive Parody: What if Kid Detectives grew up but with a kid detective mentality? This time the cases they're trying to solve is more adult than they can handle.
  • The Ditz:
    • Charlie. They're all pretty dumb, but Charlie takes the cake. He did manage to get into college somehow, though he can't even keep straight which college.
    • Leroy's girlfriend, Destiny, isn't very bright either, to say the least.
  • Driver Faces Passenger: Played in a more realistic way than usual. Leroy keeps turning around to yell at the protagonists, and in response, Duncan repeatedly requests for him to focus on the road. It turns out to be good advice.
  • Drives Like Crazy: Leroy.
  • Exact Words: Jason keeps pulling this on Kelly to keep working on the case
  • Flexing Those Non-Biceps: Charlie does this when he says, "And I'm Charlie, the strongest kid in town."
  • Girls Have Cooties: When his mother suggests he go to a party with girls, Jason simply says that girls are gross.
  • Good Cop/Bad Cop: Used on Brianna the little girl that hired them when they initially interview her. Subverted in that they tell her they're playing pretend and she thinks its fun after that.
  • Gory Discretion Shot: We never see the aftermath of the firecracker to Robert's face.
  • The Guards Must Be Crazy: Jason actually tricks a lumberyard employee into giving him Leroy's address by claiming to be Leroy and asking for the address the lumberyard has for Leroy in its computer; Leroy needs it since he plans on moving to Guam.
  • He Knows Too Much: The reason Robert gives for killing Leroy and Destiny.
  • Informed Ability: Lampshaded as supposedly, the three main characters are all major deals. Duncan is a "boy genius", Jason is a Master of Disguise and Charlie is "the strongest kid in town." Except we quickly realize none of that is true. Duncan may have been smart as a little kid but is of average intelligence today and sometimes below that. Charlie can barely lift a half-empty box and can be beaten up by a five year old girl. And Jason's "disguises" amount to outrageous wigs and hats that do nothing to hide his appearance.
    • Jason poses as his father by simply showing up as himself with a fake mustache and a deep voice when he bears absolutely no resemblance to his dad. When the guidance counselor says he's not at all fooled, Jason acts like the man is some sort of incredible genius to see through his disguise.
  • Ironic Echo: When talking to his employer about having killed the Peters, Leroy says " You take a fucking chill pill!" in response to said employer saying it to calm him down. When Jason spills some chocolate milk, Robert says "everybody take a chill pill". This clues Jason in that he's the mastermind behind the murders.
  • Just a Flesh Wound: "Ow! I was shot there!"
    • "Big deal, I been shot like three times!"
  • Insane Troll Logic: After Duncan has to reach into a dirty toilet, he decides the best way to sanitize his hand is to drink some dog urine... because dogs' mouths are cleaner than those of humans, dog urine was easier to procure than dog saliva and must be equally clean, and drinking it is more efficient than rubbing it on your hand.
  • Kid Detective: The main characters, despite being 18. The film focuses on them maturing out of this role. They feature:
  • Life Isn't Fair: If life was fair, Jason would have gotten a bike for his birthday instead of that stupid car.
  • Manchild: The main characters and Jamie (Ellie Kemper's character). Jamie turns out to be crazy/"disabled", and as for the boys, Duncan only keeps it up out of friendship. He and Charlie actually applied to college while Jason didn't.
  • Misfit Mobilization Moment: The ending, to an extent.
  • Motivational Kiss: Played more or less straight, except that Jason doesn't actually know how to kiss and just blows into the love interest's mouth.
  • Only Sane Man: Duncan, again compared to the other two.
  • Paper-Thin Disguise: For most of the movie Jason's disguises don't work. He disguises himself as a Mexican plumber which basically means bandito with a plunger, but the security guard lets him pass because its a costume party.
  • Plot-Mandated Friendship Failure: To be fair, the trio did almost die that night and came across two dead bodies.
  • Precision F-Strike: Delivered by Duncan after a fight.
    • Jason when he's bleeding from a gunshot wound.
  • Prison Rape: The standard "You know what happens in jail?" line is subverted when Duncan ends it with "No TV!"
  • Psycho for Hire: Leroy has shades of it. He was the one who killed Kelly and Brianna's parents, and from what we hear, Robert didn't necessarily intend for him to do that, but he ended up doing it anyway, and he treats it like it's something trivial.
  • Raging Stiffie: The trio sport awkwardly noticeable tents after receiving lap dances.
  • Saying Too Much: Several instances.
    • "I wish they'd all disappear like The Lost Colony of Roanoke. But they'd probably go, 'What's Roanoke?' And I'd go, 'Shut up, Caleb. '"
    • "Following your dreams is never stupid, unless you dream about water and then you pee the bed last Thursday."
    • "Forensic pathologists study the dead. Goths dress like the dead and date closeted gay guys named Ember."
    • "We won't tell the police." "Oh man, now you sound like Dad."
  • Skewed Priorities: Jason seems more preoccupied with proving the Mystery Team can solve a real case then the Team's safety, which he gets called out on:
    Duncan: Would you stop worrying about that and start worrying about us?! We almost died back there!
  • Shout-Out:
    • The movie's first mystery involves the culprit sticking his fingers in a pie to see if it felt like a vagina like in that movie.
    • Jason has the same outfit as Ness, Duncan has the same hairstyle and outfit as Jeff, and Charlie is basically Teddy.
  • Strange Minds Think Alike: Jason sees a photograph in Kelly's book about forensic pathology and disgustedly exclaims "Someone stole that guy's face!" Much later, when Robert gets a firecracker to the face, the police officer who finds him says the same thing.
  • Trademark Favorite Drink: Chocolate milk for the trio.
  • Troubling Unchildlike Behavior: Eric, the kid the team keeps running into and who Jason gives the Mystery Team stall to at the end of the movie
  • Vomit Discretion Shot: Zigzagged. When Duncan vomits up the dog urine mentioned above in "Insane Troll Logic", he's off-camera for the actual act... but the vomit itself projects into the shot and all over Jordan and Kelly.
  • Wrong Genre Savvy: The essential gag.
  • Vulgar Humor: The gentlemen's club scene, and to a lesser extent, the scene right after it, which indulges in urine and vomit jokes. Also, there's anytime that Eric, an unbelievably foul-mouthed 8 year old, opens his mouth.
  • You Wouldn't Shoot Me: "Because you're not a killer." Immediately subverted.