I actually watched Mystery Team, Derrick Comedy’s first feature film, a few days ago and I still have no idea what to think about it. It had its moments of solid humor, and the plot was better than I expected, but there was nothing that really stuck with me, except of course the great performance of Donald Glover. For those of you who already watch Community, I’m preaching to the choir, but I’m pretty sure he could have made the role of Amon Goeth (Ralph Fiennes in Schindler’s List) funny.
If you are college-aged you may know Donald Glover by his rapping name Childish Gambino, and if that’s all you have heard of him by, you are missing out big time. He is an up and coming comedy star, so I guess I shall take this post on Mystery Team to give you my reasons why.
1. He’s the best in the business at acting with his whole body. Facial expressions and body language are extremely important in comedic acting and Donald Glover is amazing with both. Remember how Will Ferrell used to be before he exhausted all of his move types? That’s the impression I get when I watch Donald Glover at his best. He’s not merely about reciting his lines, but about truly acting them out for the viewer. He can stretch his face to ridiculous angles and he is not afraid to sacrifice his body for a joke.
2. He’s a master of disguise. By far the best scene in the movie is when Glover’s character, the group’s disguise man, goes undercover to gain access to a Gentlemen’s Club. I don’t want to ruin the scene, but I will say it involves a driving permit, top hats, and monocles. He wears many different hats during the film, and while each disguise is grounded in his character’s youthful naivete, he is able to make them all different.
3. He’s actually very smart. Glover makes a living playing slightly dimwitted characters, but one listen to any of his songs and you can tell that he’s nothing like who he plays on TV. Glover graduated from NYU in 2006 with a degree in Dramatic Writing. While this doesn’t seem like something important for a comic, it means that when needed to, he can be serious and emotional. In any type of film emotion is important, and although he acts aloof most of the time, Glover has no trouble playing the straight guy. His intelligence also brings an added level of subtlety to everything he does. While a lot of that is due to the excellent writing team on Community, Glover takes their material and elevates it to another level.
4. He works well with others. If you’ve seen Community you know that it may have the best ensemble cast on television, but even in Mystery Team everyone does well together. I wasn’t a huge fan of the two supporting characters by themselves, but together their personalities meshed well and made the film genuinely funny. Also Glover’s awkward love interest in Aubrey Plaza’s (Parks and Recs) character worked very well. Glover’s high energy was a good foil to Plaza’s extreme dead pan timing.
So if those four reasons aren’t enough reason to love Donald Glover (and I’m sure they’re not), watch Mystery Team. It’s not the best movie, but it doesn’t try to be, and if anything I really enjoyed Glover’s character Jason Rodgers. He almost looks too comfortable playing an emotionally stunted teenager, but his performance makes the movie more passable than the standard dumb comedy. This post wouldn’t feel complete without at least one clip so here is Donald Glover, as Troy in Community, when he finally gets to meet his idol, Lavar Burton.
Up Next: D.A. Pennebaker’s look at the world of French pastry competition Kings of Pastry.