Together with the current pandemic, the year 2020 has produced a hidden cinematographic gem, namely the movie The Kid Detective, directed by Evan Morgan. Opening and closing with the charming song “Sugar Town”, this movie shows us that even a seemingly wholesome, unremarkable town, which we wouldn’t hesitate to label a “Sugar Town”, can hide the most twisted secrets. It didn’t take me long to realise that this movie is the unsuspected cousin of a much more well-known cinematographic work: Blue Velvet (1986), directed by David Lynch. In spite of the vastly different periods they were produced in, the two movies present some striking similarities. Indeed, Blue Velvet also opens and closes on the notes of its homonymous song “Blue Velvet”, and it slowly unveils some troubling and unexpected truths within what initially appears to be a quiet and uneventful town.
In The Kid Detective we meet the protagonist Abe (Adam Brody), who loved solving small town mysteries as a kid, to the point of making this passion his job as a grown up. However, even though Abe’s age has changed since he started being a detective (he is around 30 at the time of the events), the mysteries he solves have remained as trivial as before. That is until Caroline (Sophie Nélisse), a blonde orphaned high school girl, introduces Abe to hisfirst adult case, one which involves the murder of Caroline’s boyfriend. The two characters then start driving around town together in a convertible in the attempt to solve the mystery: however, it soon becomes clear that Abe is a somewhat incompetent and chaotic detective, who is not sure how to approach a murder case and who often forgets even what day it is or fails to pick up the phone because he is too hungover.
In Blue Velvet, Jeffrey Beaumont (Kyle MacLachlan), finds a human ear in a field when he returns to his hometown from college. After reporting the incident, he is given access to crucial information on the case by Sandy (Laura Dern), a blonde high school student who overheard her detective father speaking about related cases. Jeffrey then starts clumsily investigating with Sandy’s moderate help and support, as they drive around town together in a convertible in order to gather relevant information. During this investigation, Jeffrey accidentally exposes himself to Dorothy Vallens (Isabella Rossellini), a troubled woman who is directly involved in the case, and he engages in a disturbing sexual relationship with her.
The reason Dorothy finds out about Jeffrey is that he is gathering information in her house while she is away, but he unexpectedly needs to use the bathroom after drinking too much beer. He fails, in a scene that mixes humour and tension, to hear the signal which was supposed to warn him that the woman was coming home, since he is in that moment flushing the toilet. Before Dorothy enters the house, he has time to quickly hide in her closet and spy on her from there, but his clumsiness ends up betraying his hiding spot.
Humour and closets are both important elements in The Kid Detective, too. It is Abe’s signature move to spy on people while hiding in their closet, which always inevitably results in him being discovered by the person in question. This move is found adorable and quirky upon discovery when he is a kid, but it is understandably judged much more harshly when he is a fully grown man. The reaction to discovering Jeffrey in the closet in Blue Velvet is really striking and significantly different from both types of reaction reserved to Abe throughout his life. The juxtaposed responses to the discovery of the two would-be detectives in people’s closets perfectly encapsulate the different approaches taken by the two movies respectively to unravelling their mysteries. One of the humorous scenes in The Kid Detective happens when Abe and Caroline are chased by a mysterious car, which comically turns out to be driven by Abe’s overly protective dad, who, together with his mum, is spying on Abe because they are worried he might be endangering himself with the investigation. Returning to his car, he tells Caroline that the two mysterious individuals following them were reporters trying to find out more about his case.
Both films reveal some twisted truth which is at least partially sexual in nature; however, in Blue Velvet, the viewer is exposed to some explicitly horrifying sexual scenarios, whereas in The Kid Detective the truth remains a deeply disturbing implication. Although both movies could be labelled as neo-noir, they lack the ambiguous ending typical of traditional noir movies, and they instead end very conclusively. Nonetheless, one of the movies has a definite happy ending for all the protagonists involved, whereas the other one ends on a sad and troubling note. I will leave it to the reader to discover which is which, but I recommend the viewing of these films that I really loved watching and think more people should see, especially if you are interested in knowing more about these two troubled and sad detectives, or as I refer to them in my title, “Blue Detectives”, successfully solving disturbing and gripping mysteries, each in their own clumsy and chaotic way.