Like a weak pop song with a dope sample looping through it, The World Famous Kid Detective is a poorly written, acted, and directed kid flick with one cool idea: It's chock full of snippets from old detective noir flicks. Those clips are a blast, but they're not enough to compensate for the amateurishness that brackets them. Arriving home from school one day, self-described kid detective Stanley Kid (Nick King) discovers that his mom has been rushed to the hospital. Afraid that a social worker will remove him and his sister, Nina (Karalena Morehead), from their mother's custody (they've had run-ins with social services before), he has to figure how to keep his family together.
His efforts are complicated by two new, overlapping cases he takes on involving a serial robber who is making off with skateboards and cell phones. And there's a haunted house. Director Tim Kelly and screenwriter Margaret Langendorf work from a dated notion of children's film that makes their own seem unintentionally anachronistic. These characters don't resonate as 21st-century kids (even with the faux punk gear worn by a couple); they're a decades-out-of-season idea of childhood precociousness and innocence. Stanley's milquetoast world weariness and affectations (he uses the word "dames" a lot) might have worked in the shorts that once played on The Mickey Mouse Club but now are pointlessly antiquated. The film is like something an adolescent filmmaker from a sheltered, time-warped suburb made with a group of his friends -- and was then jazzed up by a savvy adult splicing in clips from old movies.