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Sundance Film Festival – The Mystery Team Brings Back Encyclopedia Brown Detective Work

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Late Thursday night, a packed house took in the Midnight world premiere of Mystery Team, the feature-film debut of the Derrick Comedy troupe, best known for their web shorts and sketch work. Riffing on Encyclopedia Brown and The Hardy Boys, Mystery Team follows the sleepy town of Oakdale’s best kid detectives who, unfortunately, are not kids anymore. With the group about to graduate high school, the Team’s early successes have given way to scorn, but a new murder case gives them a chance to redeem themselves. 

Combining smart, solid character work with goofy, foul-mouthed comedy, Mystery Team‘s
laugh-out-loud funny, and somehow manages to be both offensive and
endearing, smart and stupid. During the Q&A, co-star and co-writer
Pearson explained the challenges of jumping from the troupe’s shorts
and sketches to feature-length filmmaking: “With a sketch, you explore
an idea … and looking to blow out every aspect of it. You’re really
not thinking about plot and character… In a movie, you have to
simultaneously do things like have a plot that moves and characters
that develop… and still have there be jokes and not sell out that
reality at any point.”

As for the movie’s most obvious inspiration, the kid-lit mystery classic Encyclopedia Brown series, Glover was quick to give credit where credit was due. “I had always been into Encyclopedia Brown — always, always; I just loved him so much,” he said. “Right before we wrote [The Mystery Team] I just bought a whole collection of all of his work, and I learned a whole about him. There was a black Encyclopedia Brown, did you guys know that? Bet you didn’t.”

What the cast and crew wouldn’t share were budget details. This, as director Dan Eckman noted was because they had no money: “We’re not at liberty to say. It was very, very small,” clarifying, “Less than a hundred million.” Mystery Team hasn’t been picked up for distribution yet, but as the cast and crew took questions and enjoyed the crowd’s laughter in the dead of night, you couldn’t help but feel that a new stage in their career had just dawned.

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