Movie Review: Mystery Team- A Comedic Diamond in the Rough that is Incredibly Original, Clever, and Well Paced

Comedy has been in a sad state for well over a decade now having only the occasional diamonds in the rough amidst trivial and replicated products combining gross out humor and cliché over the top characters. Some think back to those memorable comedic ventures such as Broken Lizard’s Super Troopers or even Edgar Wright’s Shaun of the Dead but most of the repetitive drivel that gets created just isn’t worth the time and effort even with all of that marketing hype. But if you wait long enough sometimes you get extremely lucky to experience a gem in these dark times of comedy such as Derrick Comedy’s Mystery Team. The sketch comedy group Derrick Comedy, formed at New York University, has proven that they can go beyond their internet sketch comedy and make a full fledged comedy feature film. Unlike Ricky Gervais’ Invention of Lying, which seemed strained to make a good sketch idea into a feature film, Mystery Team is a well balanced, appropriately paced, and incredibly clever film that knows how to deliver consistently funny material in a well developed narrative framework. Mystery Team is the equivalent of an Agatha Christie play gone haywire; set around three naïve high school kids who attempt to solve a murder mystery that is well above their heads, intellectually and developmentally. This film has a legitimate independent feel that might force some people away in this hay day of perfect cinematography, but the writing is grade A and the delivery makes it an incredibly funny experience.

Many elements have to come together to make a comedy memorable and Mystery Team spares no expense with their one liners, clever scenarios, well balanced gross out humor, and a good story structure to follow it all in. The story here is quite simple since it revolves around three clueless seniors in high school who still attempt being a private investigator team for hire, which they started at the age of seven. After returning from a freshly solved case concerning someone sticking their fingers in a pie, a little girl unexpectedly hires the “Mystery Team” to solve her parent’s murder. This is sort of like The Big Sleep meets Superbad, with most of the memorable lines being much wittier and the dead pan delivery more refined than your average comedy. This is an independent comedy to believe in and should put this comedy group on the map, much like the Foot Fist Way did for Jody Hill, who went on to do Observe and Report as well as the television series Eastbound & Down. While perhaps the acting isn’t up to recognizable quality, from only a few of the incredibly minor characters, the story is well organized, tactful, and allows for a great sense of comedic timing that is uncommon in many films today. The characters are appropriately exaggerated for comedic effect and when needed have that multi-dimensional way of being understanding, sympathetic, and vulnerable. The “dramatic” scenes need to push the story in a place of conflict amongst the protagonists doesn’t feel strained and moves naturally with the clever dialogue and potently funny scenes.

For some it might be difficult to get past the “home video” sort of feel Mystery Team has to it but the truth is that quality trumps spectacle any day. Here the script shines with great use of character, unexpected gross out scenarios (including reaching into an already full toilet), and some memorable one liners (“They’re like pigeons”). Comedy is about the unexpected and the genre has become full of expected scenarios that have been done in some way or another. But Derrick Comedy shows that originality in the realm of comedy is not dead and can, in fact, drive an entire feature film with fresh ideas. The cast is filled with the recognizable faces of the Derrick comedy troupe and they certainly know their characters inside and out making an easily digestible independent comedy. Transitioning from sketches to a full film might have been difficult for some and the quality could be sacrificed to try and stretch the material out, but the material was abundant for this project and flows very nicely. Some off beat references such as a cartoon take on a Hobo might leave some scratching their heads but overall it’s a well delivered comedy that deserves more attention than its getting considering that its main release was all the way back in October. Luckily this gem has a DVD release date for May so keep your eyes open.

Too many films today lack integrity and heart, but Mystery Team embodies both of these rare sentiments by taking pride in their written material and applies it so well on the screen. The troupe work well together, which is no surprise since they have an established history of collaboration. Mystery Team doesn’t take cheap routes for a joke but places its comedy around well established characters and witty situations that make the ingenious comedy resonate at a much greater level. Producers might learn a lesson from quality material such as this since it didn’t take much to produce and it already has a cult following. If only the marketing was readily available for such an original piece of comedy instead of the horrid campaigns for Hollywood drivel such as Bounty Hunter or Youth in Revolt. Mark your calendars for late May as Derrick Comedy’s Mystery Team makes its way to DVD, which greatly deserves your attention with all of its originality and wit.

Grade: A-

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