The Kid Detective ★★★

Feature-length adaptation of the "every kid in [gifted school program] is [somehow mentally unwell]" meme construction, plus also the latest in what's now a 25-year-old line of post-Bottle Rocket pulp tributes pitched at ironically innocent. But where Anderson took the piss from Reservoir Dogs and its own preceding lineage (and proved both an idiosyncratic filmmaker and genuinely funny from the jump), The Kid Detective writer/director Evan Morgan is going back further, riffing on the Chandler/Hammett thing (and to much lesser effect): a series of two- and three-hander conversation scenes that purport to unravel a plot (one cold murder and one fresh one, like usual), but that really just work in an excessively writerly fashion to reveal some melancholy lives being lived unnoticed in the lonely bars and living rooms of his chosen milieu. Main joke underneath is that everyone here including the troubled detective is racked not so much by existential guilt but rather by a pretty specifically millennial identity anxiety. And film itself becomes troubled by a similarly generational aversion to conflict, cutting away from too many dialogue scenes right when they're getting heated. Plus also deferring to s/rs coverage far too often for my liking. But then an unexpected and very fitting ending pushes it right past good enough—as Black Lizard readers know, last page goes a long way.