There have been quite a few movies over the years that deal with the guy who peaked in high school. That's what Most Likely to Murder, which recently made its debut at SXSW, is on the surface, but there's a murder mystery to deal with beneath that helps set it apart from others that have arrived before it. While it doesn't ever venture far enough into horror territory to be truly categorized as a horror/comedy, the thriller elements, which nod to classics from directors like Alfred Hitchcock, help breathe some extra life into what would otherwise be a pretty average sketch-comedy-type funny flick.
Most Likely to Murder centers on Billy (Adam Pally), who comes back home after his parents decided to sell his childhood home and retire. Once the coolest kid in high school, he comes back to his hometown 15 years later to find he's no longer cool and that everyone else has moved on with their lives. Kara (Rachel Bloom) the girl he still has feelings for now dates the former town outcast, Lowell (Vincent Kartheiser), who Billy made fun of in high school. However, after a mysterious incident, Billy becomes obsessed with proving the outcast is actually a murderer and not the nice guy everyone thinks he is.
The thing that really makes any good comedy work is chemistry. And there's an awful lot of chemistry going on in Most Likely to Murder. Specifically, Adam Pally (The Mindy Project) and Rachel Bloom (Crazy Ex-Girlfriend) really manage to shoulder a lot of the weight here with their on-screen riffing and believable relationship. Pally and Bloom aren't exactly household names, but they've both been in the comedy game for a long time and those that do know their work know that they're very capable in that department. There are also appearances from other lovable comedy folks like Billy Eichner (Billy on the Street) and John Lutz (30 Rock) that help to elevate the comedy.
There are also quite a few references that aren't overly heavy-handed which help make the movie work. There's a fun thread having to do with Ace Ventura: Pet Detective that is incredibly random but pays dividends throughout the movie. Then there's the murder mystery side of this movie, which is on the one hand, a major plot device. On the other hand, it never actually rears its head in a truly fearful way. Even at times when this movie is paying homage to classics like Rear Window, it's comedy driving the mystery forward as it unravels. It might have been nice to see a more equal blend with the comedy and thriller elements, but what is presented in Most Likely to Murder, which is first and foremost a comedy about a man coming to terms with moving on from his past, does work quite well.
Co-writer/Director Dan Gregor, who has worked on shows like Crazy Ex-Girlfriend and How I Met Your Mother, definitely brings his sensibilities to the table here. It makes for a solid feature directorial debut. Most Likely to Murder may not be the horror/comedy send-up of the classic murder mystery genre that it perhaps could have been, but it's a good, heartfelt, well-meaning comedy that will make you laugh and doesn't venture into needless shock value territory, or rely too heavily on low-brow humor to drive it forward. It's a fun comedy coming out of SXSW and sometimes, just being fun is enough. You can learn more about the movie on its official Facebook.