At just 54 minutes long (plus an extended end-credit sequence), "The World Famous Kid Detective" plays more like a potential Disney Channel pilot — and a not very polished one at that — than as an actual feature film. Most youngsters, to whom this DIY comedy is clearly aimed, will likely find it an extremely low-octane experience.
Filmed in Alameda, Calif., the island community across from San Francisco, the movie follows the earnest efforts of a budding 10-year-old sleuth named Stanley Kid (Nick King) as he works to solve a few petty local crimes. (A stolen cellphone! A purloined skateboard!) Meanwhile, the wise, self-sufficient Stanley must protect himself and his nudgy younger sister, Nina (Karalena Morehead), from a dubious social worker tracking them while their widowed, diabetic mother is in the hospital. I repeat: underwhelming.
The film, directed by Tim Kelly from a script by Margaret Langendorf, is infused with Stanley's faux-noirish narration, a plethora of clips from obscure old black-and-white crime dramas, and some economical editing effects. It's a valiant attempt to elevate the film's creative game, but this flatly shot picture remains cramped by its homespun roots.
Other young characters include Stanley and Nina's surly older cousin — and nominal guardian — Addison (Lillian Almohajer), her sidekick Max (Matthew G. King) and Stanley's buddy and "good client" Ben (Benjamin Vu). Adults are coyly only shown in partial view.
Acting all around is amateurish, though not annoyingly so. There is, however, some weak enunciation from the tyro performers that should have been finessed in post-production.
"The World Famous Kid Detective."
MPAA rating: None.
Running time: 1 hour, 2 minutes.
Playing: At Arena Cinema, Hollywood.