AFJ’S PSYCH: THE MOVIE REVIEW!
By Jarrett Kruse
Sorry for the lateness on this one gang. I am still back East in New Jersey and naturally the room I am staying in only has a ROKU so I could not watch PSYCH: THE MOVIE live and had to DVR it and watch it after my folks went to work. That being said, I have been looking forward to this 2 hour special for months. Actually to say, "looking forward to" is an understatement--I have been positively giddy that Shawn & Gus were returning for a Christmas Special along with the whole gang.
It is hard to believe that it has already been three years since PSYCH ended with the dynamic duo heading north to San Francisco. To say that I was sad that the show was ending is an understatement--I was devastated. See, after my car accident, I desperately needed something to watch that would make me laugh and fight through the terrible pain I was in. My brother suggested that I pick up the first season of PSYCH and the rest is history. I became a full on PSYCH-O, obsessed with the characters, the barrage of 80's references and the camaraderie of the Santa Barbara Police Department.
I believed that James Roday & Dule Hill were best friends in real life (they are) and it comes through perfectly since the pilot episode aired in 2006 on USA Network. The bromance between the two was completely organic and downright hysterical; polar opposites that would take a bullet for one another without a second thought. I had a major crush on the adorable Maggie Lawson playing Juliet O'Hara who was cast after actress Anne Dudek dropped out of the role. To be honest, I do not think that the show would have been as big of a cult hit had Dudek stayed on. The Clint Eastwood obsessed, by the books Timothy Omundson was pitch perfect as Head Detective Carlton Lassiter constantly butting heads with Shawn Spencer in an effort to prove to that he was in fact a fraud. Even Kristen Nelson's Chief Karen Vick, a veteran character actress in her own right, was the exact kind of mediator that the show needed when team Shawn/Gus & team Jules/Lassiter had differences of opinion. She was diplomatic and smart enough that although Shawn was not really a psychic, he had the skills handed down by his curmudgeonly retired cop dad Henry played by an against type Corbin Bernsen.
Die hard fans may remember from the 2014 finale that Shawn's grandmother's ring he was planning on proposing to Jules with was stolen in the last scene leading the trio on one last chase around the streets of San Francisco before fading to black. Cut to three years later and Shawn is still looking for the ring in the back alleys of the streets of San Francisco where stolen goods are fenced, dressed up as one of my favorite characters, "Soupcan Sam" which is actually part of Gus's Hagrid costume. Shawn immediately gets spotted by El Provedor and his goons leading to a chase where he eventually escapes winding up at Gus's boring new day job.
Juliet is on a stakeout with her vanilla new partner, the anti-Lassiter Sam Sloane, catching petty thieves when she catches Chief Vick's all-grown up tween daughter Iris being the perp. While Jules lets her go, she goes to the Chief's house to let her know what her daughter is into before Iris begs Jules not to disclose what she saw. You feel bad for the kid as she struggles to find that spot between becoming a full on teenager and it only ups Jules' cool factor as my dream girl.
When Jules' new partner heads home to his loft, he is met by Zachary Levi's "Thin White Duke," a lanky Brit with a brilliant cockney accent that makes you question if Levi is even American. (I looked it up and he is from Louisiana). Levi chews the scenery with his David Bowie bleach blonde hair and is flanked by Heather Rockrear and the Black Gentleman Ninja (God I miss these hysterical names) played respectively by the WWE's Ashley Fliehr (Ric Flair's real life daughter) and Nathan Mitchell. After stealing Sloane's dongle (flash drive), the bad guys take down Sam in a hail of gunfire and he is barely clinging to life in the hospital.
Shawn has set up a new shop for PSYCH's home-base in a near exact replica of the shop where the Dad in GREMLINS purchases a Mogwai and renamed it, "PSYCHPHRANCISCO." I was hysterical at this because it really is a replica of the shop from the scary Christmas movie where cute little Mogwai's become terrifying monsters. Shawn & Gus have not changed one bit and at one point in my notes, I actually wrote, "I am home again." It just all felt right, no BS or reboot nonsense or reinventing the wheel, just the gang doing what they do best. Shawn's first quip to Gus is, "Don't be the comma in Earth, Wind & Fire." Sure on paper it is not a hysterical joke but Roday's comedic timing has not lost a step nor has Dule's straight man reaction to his partners constant refusal to enter adulthood.
As it turns out, the stolen dongle (the guys cannot even keep a straight face any time this word is mentioned regardless of how dire the circumstances) is revealed to contain all of the SFPD's files including an entire dossier on Juliet. Hiding outside the hospital is none other than Nick Conforth, Ralph Macchio reprising his role as Santa Barbara police academy trainer who is still tight with the now clinging to life Sam Sloane, his former student. Nick reveals to the guys that he tried to approach Juliet at one point but she put him off. Clearly Detective O'Hara is hiding something big which is very out of character for her as she has always been the shows straight shooter. Sam had called Nick saying not to trust anyone, especially Jules, because of a continuous series of burner phone calls talking about "The Crimes of Juliet." Hmmm...
Despite Jules' objections, Shawn & Gus track a lead where the burner phone was pinging off of and it is a condemned mental hospital. Naturally, Gus is terrified but Shawn presses forward convincing his partner that nothing terrible can happen. I always love the banter between Roday & Hill and they are so invested in these characters that even in promos and interviews, they are not that different than their onscreen counterparts. Plus they are legit best buds in real life upping the ante of being able to work on an awesome show together where the chemistry is so genuine.
After being chased down by a rescue dog that Shawn naturally names Morrissey, a British 80's musical icon. Its nice to know that Shawn's 80's-centric focus has not waned after he soothes the attack dog with an $80 bag of jerky that Gus was hiding for himself. The guys find a message saying, "She must be judged" among what is clearly the home base of The Duke filled with lots of high-tech gadgets, computers and all of Jules' personal info. The Duke and his minions arrive and realize their lair has been compromised while a perimeter check is in action. Seeing Shawn & Gus escape from any situation is always a laugh riot and this one is especially hysterical as their car now appears to be equipped with two steering wheels because of the incessant fighting over who should drive. So seeing the two try and maneuver a K-turn is comedic gold.
When the duo reveal to the Chief what is going on at the mental hospital, she is gung ho to be back in the field after almost three years of cutting ribbons and photo ops. Naturally when the gang arrives back in the condemned building, it has been cleaned out and Shawn slayed me with a David Mamet joke quipping, "We've been Spanish Prisonered again!" It is those little nuggets of obscure pop culture that have kept me coming back to PSYCH all these years with all 120 episodes on my DVR.
As die hard fans know, Gus's game with the ladies has always been a little off despite his bravado and GQ style and upkeep while being mistaken for "Bud" from THE COSBY SHOW. His go to line has usually been, "You hear about Pluto? That's messed up right?" (after the star was demoted from planet status). Gus is hellbent on attending a planetarium party where he quickly hits it off with his real life fiancee Jazmyn Simon playing Selene, an astrological enthusiast that jumps Gus's bones in the middle of the party. After years of botched relationships and false starts with the wrong women, Gus seems to have finally found his perfect female foil even if she is a little stalkerish.
When Jules heads back to the ICU to check on Sam's status, there are men down everywhere and Sam has been smothered with a pillow by Heather Rockrear posing as a nurse. While examining the body, it turns out that scene stealer Kurt Fuller, Medical Examiner Woody Strode, is back in the fray. It is hugs all around and despite Sam's death, it is a joyous reunion for the guys. Fuller has a capacity to get the strangest laughs throughout the shows run and he is back and as goofy as ever. Somehow, Selene shows up in the morgue wanting to follow up with Gus after having thoroughly checked out Burton and his personal history online. Creepy? Yes. On the other hand, she is a single woman that is interested.
Upon further examination of Sam's stomach contents, Woody is able to procure Sam's dongle (LOL) and they boot it up to find the documents labeled, "The Crimes of Juliet O'Hara." Meanwhile, El Proveedor is waiting for Shawn & Gus at PSYCHPHRANCISCO and Spencer is forced to "read" the criminal's future to get out of the jam under the threat of death. Shawn's quick thinking always impresses me because intuitively, people buy into psychics because they want to hear something specific and El Proveedor is no different.
Jules has been keeping a "murder board" of sorts and apologizes to Shawn for not wanting him to get involved. She comes clean for the first time that she may have fudged the rules over the years to put the bad guys behind bars but nothing blatantly illegal. All of the criminals had a legitimate beef; a technicality that they hoped would get them off that did not pan out even though they helped O'Hara. Shawn does a very cool MINORITY REPORT style scan of all of the documents and determines that The Duke is a snitch named Billy McGoldrick who despite his assistance to Juliet, was also put away. It turns out that The Duke has been surveilling Juliet from an apartment across the street and a shootout ensues. Billy feels betrayed and that Detective O'Hara ruined his life hence the maniacal plan to take her down once and for all assuring her that he keeps his promises. However, something kept gnawing at me that Billy was not the one pulling the strings behind this convoluted caper.
Henry Spencer shows up in San Fran determined to help but it is not the Henry we remember. This is a new zen Henry with a hip wardrobe and a much less by the book attitude than we remember. As the dust settles for an intimate scene of pondering between Shawn & Jules when she gets some air and FaceTime's Lassiter to get some much needed advice from her mentor. I have to admit I was very bummed out that this was Omundson's only scene even though it played very well to move the plot along. Shawn has a very intense dream with the return of the deceased Mary Lightly (the always terrific Jimmi Simpson) and the Gin Blossom's "Allison Road" playing in the background. I should have picked up on the clue but it went over my head.
The Duke had promised Juliet that he swore to someone else that he would not be the one to kill her. But if not The Duke, then who? The dastardly bleach blonde abducts the Chief's daughter Iris and are keeping her in a cell on The Rock. That's right, Alcatraz baby! The final act plays out just as you would expect but it has panache and flair without feeling rehashed and boilerplate. The clues of who is really behind it all are all there, I just did not have the detective skills to figure it out because even I had a jaw-drop moment when the big reveal of who the person pulling the strings was. Cat fights ensue, Woody & Henry have the crap beat out of them by Ric Flair's daughter and even the old standard, "Gus is a table" finally works correctly!
To reveal anymore would be criminal because I really want to hear the Junkie PSYCH-O's opinions and theories. Needless to say, when the team gets back to the docks and everyone is safe and sound, El Proveedor is waiting to thank Shawn personally because all of his "prophecies" came true. Of course, it was Junior Detective Buzz McNabb that made it all happen but more importantly, the fence has located Shawn's grandmother's ring. The career criminal just also happens to be ordained and the long overdue wedding of Juliet & Shawn takes place right there on the docks. I have to admit, it was a very satisfying two hours and I wish to the TV gods that somehow, someway, that PSYCH can continue.
PSYCH is still fresh, timely and funnier than most one hour procedural cop dramas currently on the air. I genuinely miss the show because it really did get me through a tough period after my car accident. If this is the final time we see Shawn & Gus together, I am thankful that it was on such a fun ride that I will watch over and over again. It is so rare to have such a large ensemble cast gel the way PSYCH did and creator/showrunner Steve Franks certainly leaves the fate of the show wide open in a final scene with a very special guest star. Here's hoping it happens. I know you know that I’m telling the truth...