Even the most brilliant comics tend to feel the flop sweat when taken out of their natural habitat. (Try looking up clips of George Carlin’s short-lived Fox sitcom sometime. Your hair will go white.) Sketch comedians often prove the most resistant to change, the form’s brief bursts of inspiration hard-pressed to sustain a 90-minute film. For every Brain Candy or Wet Hot American Summer, a dozen Miss Marches and Club Dreads lie twitching by the side of the road.
Mystery Team, the first feature from the cult YouTube troupe Derrick Comedy, falls somewhere in the in-between: wildly inconsistent, yet possessing a few undeniable moments of awesome. If plotted on a chart, the viewing experience would be something like this: “Chuckle dead spot guffaw uncomfortable silence snicker crickets chortle tumbleweeds,” which makes it tough to recommend. Then again, Central Cinema does serve beer.
Writers Donald Glover, D. C. Pierson, and Dominic Dierkes play the team of the title, a trio of arrestedly developed high-school seniors still running the backyard detective agency they formed as kids. As the patience of their long-suffering neighborhood wears thin, their life of investigating windowsill pie thefts is thrown into upheaval when a real-life murder occurs. It’s a promising premise (even if South Park and The Venture Bros. kinda got there first), which makes it all the more disappointing to see most of Mystery Team’s potential stricken lame by a complete lack of pacing. But then, every once in a while, a discussion about proper hobo bean-slicing etiquette or a stripper’s hilariously blasé scar story comes through and just kills. Why, if those moments were to be isolated and taken out of the movie and placed on the internet in separate chunks, it might even be possible to proclaim them genius. Hey, wait a minute.