Mr. Monk's Last Case Review: Fans Of The Defective Detective Get One Final Treat - SlashFilm (2024)

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Mr. Monk's Last Case Review: Fans Of The Defective Detective Get One Final Treat - SlashFilm (1)

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ByDevin Meenan/

More than 13 years ago, the world said goodbye to Adrian Monk (Tony Shalhoub) after eight seasons on the USA Network. Monk is a genius detective riddled with anxiety, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and dozens of phobias. And yet, these very qualities make him such an astute investigator — "It's a gift and a curse." Now, fans get one more sample of Monk's gift with a follow-up movie, "Mr. Monk's Last Case." The film is not a "legacy sequel" as is the trend these days, but a classical post-series TV reunion movie. It's not just the main cast that returns either, but "Monk" co-creators Andy Breckmann and David Hoberman and prolific series director Randy Zisk. The reunion feels complete because of it, since their presence means the storytelling of "Mr. Monk's Last Case" feels like, well, "Monk."

In the series finale, "Mr. Monk and the End," Monk finally solved the murder of his late wife Trudy (Melora Hardin) and discovered she had a daughter she never knew, Molly (Alona Tal). The finale suggested Monk, having "someone to love" again as Molly's new stepfather, would be in a better place after a series of struggles with his mental health. However, the journey to happiness is not a straight line.

Over a decade later, the world has moved on. Monk's assistant Natalie Teeger (Traylor Howard) moved from San Francisco to Atlanta with her new husband, Captain Leland Stottlemeyer (Ted Levine) has retired, and carrying on from "The End," Randy Disher (Jason Gray-Stanford) lives in New Jersey married to Monk's first assistant, Sharona Fleming (Bitty Schram, who unfortunately doesn't appear outside stock footage). As for Monk himself? Despite Molly's emotional support, the COVID-19 pandemic and the lingering absence of Trudy have taken their toll — so much so that Adrian is planning to join her.

Monk's character arc is realizing how people will miss him if he's gone — how fitting a theme for a reunion movie.

A new mystery

Mr. Monk's Last Case Review: Fans Of The Defective Detective Get One Final Treat - SlashFilm (2)

Peaco*ck

"Mr. Monk's Last Case" has some meta-jokes about the time lapse between the end of "Monk" and this new movie. A publishing exec (Shalhoub's wife Brooke Adams), when turning down Adrian's biography manuscript (he spent pages describing the oven he forgot to turn off in the pilot), remarks "The name Adrian Monk used to mean something." Another character jokes that Monk used to solve one case a week.

The movie doesn't linger on this (nor the pandemic jokes, thankfully), though, because there's a mystery to solve. Molly (now played by Caitlin McGee) is engaged, but it's not long before her life is upended by a murder. So, Monk comes out of retirement and is soon investigating Rick Eden (James Purefoy), a Jeff Bezos-style online shopping mogul and aspiring astronaut.

The mystery's resolution is telegraphed early on, but to be fair, the same could be said for many "Monk" episodes. "Monk" is often a halfway between a typical whodunnit and a reversal, a la "Columbo" or "Poker Face." The audience might know who the culprit is, but they watch to find out how and why the murder was pulled off. There's a reason one of Monk's go-to lines is "Here's what happened," followed by some grayscale flashbacks (a stylistic choice the movie re-employs).

Putting on some old acting shoes

Mr. Monk's Last Case Review: Fans Of The Defective Detective Get One Final Treat - SlashFilm (3)

Peter Stranks/Peaco*ck

"Monk" is a character comedy as much as a murder mystery, so it has more humor than a typical police procedural; it's a very funny show considering there's at least one murder every episode. Tony Shalhoub is a comedy master when it comes to verbal backspacing and brutal honesty; he makes Monk simultaneously rude and soft-spoken, not the most natural combination of character traits.

In "Mr. Monk's Last Case," Shalhoub slides back into Adrian's trademark brown coat like he never left; his behavior-centered humor is right out of the show, both writing and acting-wise. My favorite is the scene where he carries his own hand sanitizer dispenser in public and bars others from using it: "I don't make the rules."

The same can be said of his castmates. They're mostly just playing their old ancillary roles (the closest to uncharted territory is Stottlemeyer, whose new job causes some minor conflict), but the movie's goal is to continue the feel of the show, not disrupt it. Like Monk's life, the movie is better for Natalie, Leland, and Randy's presence.

As for the newcomers, McGee is a sunny new presence in the main ensemble while Purefoy shows Bond villain gusto as Eden.

An overdue reunion

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Peaco*ck

Even with a runtime twice as long as the typical "Monk" episode, "Mr. Monk's Last Case" has the same breezy pacing — mostly. It never overstays its welcome, but it's a heavier watch than the series usually was due to Adrian's planned suicide (the film's end credits include the number for the suicide hotline). As for the resolution? Monk, who's been seeing visions of Trudy all movie, comes face to face with all the people whose murders he's solved and realizes the difference he made in their deaths. The execution is cheesier than it should be, but the message is well met.

Despite the long-running thread of Trudy's murder, "Monk" is at its heart an episodic series. That's what makes an epilogue/reunion like this palatable; it's not overriding an ending, just offering a new chapter in a neverending story. As this movie's conclusion reminds us, there will always be someone else in need of Adrian Monk's help.

If you're a fan of "Monk," there's no reason not to check out his last case.

/Film Rating: 7 out of 10

"Mr. Monk's Last Case: A Monk Movie" is streaming on Peaco*ck come December 8, 2023.

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Mr. Monk's Last Case Review: Fans Of The Defective Detective Get One Final Treat - SlashFilm (2024)

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