Derrick comedy has a laugh-out-loud hilarious, dark comedy movie on their hands, and if all things go well, soon enough, there will be a distribution deal for Mystery Team. How do I know this? I managed to get in on one of the intimate free screenings in New York City earlier this week, and talked to four-fifths of the team behind Mystery Team afterward (Dan Eckman, Meggie McFadden, DC Pierson and Dominic Dierkes -- Donald Glover was over in Long Island City being executive story editor on 30 Rock). Roll the clip!
As mentioned in the clip, Mystery Team debuted in January at the Sundance Film Festival to mostly positive reviews and buzz. Director/co-writer/editor Eckman said he managed to cut more than six minutes from the version Sundance audiences saw, getting the running time down to a leaner 98 minutes. "Watching it with an audience six times at Sundance really opened the whole thing up," Eckman told me.
If you haven't heard the buzz yet, let me fill you in. Donald Glover, DC Pierson and Dominic Dierkes play three high-schoolers who are still living off of their childhood "fame" as boy detectives who solved neighborhood mysteries a la Encyclopedia Brown. Glover's Jason is as animated as a Looney Tunes character with a propensity for disguises that rely on fake mustaches. Pierson's Duncan has memorized trivial trivia and thinks that makes him a boy genius when it just makes him a nerd. Dierkes' Charlie is a dumb jock without being a jock. They're 17, but still living as if they were 7. "No case too hard, no case too tough," reads the hand-painted sign outside Jason's house. And their mysteries are as tough as figuring out who stuck their fingers in an old lady's pie. Until a girl rings Jason's bell and asks him to solve the murder of her parents. The boys take the case and quickly find themselves in over their heads, literally and figuratively. Will they grow up and/or solve the case? Aubrey Plaza (NBC's Parks & Recreation) plays the other orphaned sister. Bobby Moynihan (Saturday Night Live) shows up every so often as a grocery store cashier who still idolizes the Mystery Team. And there are plenty of other great comedian cameos and supporting roles with an emphasis on the UCB: Tom Shillue, Matt Walsh, Kay Cannon, Neil Casey, Jon Daly, Will Hines, Ellie Kemper, Anthony King, John Lutz, Ben Schwartz, Kevin Brown and Robbie Sublett among them.
There is a lot of profanity and also nudity. And yet. It's a decidedly different approach from the recent wave of raunchy bromance comedies from Judd Apatow and his friends. Instead of making raunch the punchline, Mystery Team goes for an even bigger laugh in the characters reacting to their shocking situations. There's a lengthy R-rated sequence that takes the boy detectives into a strip club. One exchange I managed to scribble down. A stripper reveals her C-section scar. "$20 and I'll let you come on it," she tells Charlie. His reply: "I'll give you $5 if you tell me what that means."
"The premise is G-rated characters in an R-rated world," Eckman said. "We want the audience to feel as uncomfortable as the characters."
They wrote, produced, directed, edited and even scored the film themselves. But it doesn't look like a cheap Internet video gone long. Nope. It could be the funniest feature film of 2009. And I'm guessing that not long after their final free screening March 10 in Beverly Hills (info here), I'll be able to report that they have sold Mystery Team for national big-screen distribution.
Related: The Mystery Team trailer (NSFW!)