“Psych: The Movie” is exactly what I thought it would be. That is a good thing.
Why would anyone mess with the formula of a show that was successful for eight seasons? It’s been off the air for a few years, but I still miss its particular blend of pop-culture obsessiveness, camaraderie and escapism. Even more motivation to keep “Psych” essentially the way it was: A whole new generation of fans — including my teenage son — discovered when it (temporarily) found new life on a streaming platform, thus increasing the number of fans who will come to the new movie wanting the expected array of quippy shenanigans and nothing too heavy or deep.
The show’s tone, execution and goals have not changed, which is a good thing. If nothing else, one reason to keep the “Psych” gang wrapped up in familiar, light stories is because the world needs something fun. There’s more than enough darkness around these days, on TV screens and in life. If you’re coming to “Psych” for a challenging exploration of the grimiest corners of the human soul, well… don’t do that.
As far as the plot of the “Psych” movie goes — oh, come on. Honestly, who cares? All you need to know is that the script, by star/producer James Roday and creator Steve Franks, knits together low-stakes action, haunted-house scares, a kidnapping plot, and a romance storyline reasonably well. It’s all just a framework to hang the usual “Psych” escapades on, and as such, the workmanlike core storylines get the job done.
The actors certainly appear to be having a good time doing the things you expect their characters to do: Gus (Dulé Hill) and Shawn (Roday) spar and squabble and rejoice in being best friends who truly get each other and love to run down hallways together. The romance between Shawn and Juliet (Maggie Lawson) keeps perking along, and it’s nice to see that much of the central story revolves around Lawson, who is game for any action scenario, emotional moment or silly escape plan. The premise of the show — that Shawn fakes being a psychic in order to help out the police — isn’t even relied on too heavily in this briskly paced movie, which contains homages to past “Psych” episodes and running gags.
Kirsten Nelson, Corbin Bernsen and Timothy Omundson do their dependably good jobs as various authority figures in Gus and Shawn’s orbit, and Zachary Levi turns up as a bottle-blond villain from England. The character’s accent and hair are both a little ridiculous, but, as is the case with so much of “Psych,” the goofiness is more or less intentional. Around the edges, skilled actors like Jimmi Simpson and Kurt Fuller add welcome comedic grace notes.
Exasperation is a running theme in “Psych”: Shawn frustrates many of those around him, but his lively energy makes their tolerance of his occasional obnoxiousness understandable. Gus and Shawn correct each other’s pop-culture references and critique each other’s life choices, but Hill and Roday effortlessly convey the pair’s unabashed enthusiasm for each other. The bad guys and characters in dream sequences offer up commentaries on various dastardly plans and other events, but the “Psych” team injects the usual amount of glee into the film’s meta references.
It’s entirely possible that there are some who simply don’t get “Psych” or enjoy its loopy doings. Its brand of zany, self-referential comedy isn’t for everyone. But those who enjoyed the USA series in the past will likely revel in more of the same in this fizzy outing, in part because the main characters actually care about each other, and the cast does a fine job of conveying that.
Speaking of pop-culture references, if USA were to make careening, enjoyably silly “Psych” movies an annual holiday affair — a la “Doctor Who” — they’d get no argument from me.
Cast, James Roday, Dulé Hill, Maggie Lawson, Kirsten Nelson, Timothy Omundson, Corbin Bernsen, Zachary Levi, Jimmi Simpson, John Cena, Kurt Fuller, Jazmyn Simon, Ralph Macchio, Charlotte Flair.
Executive producers, Steve Franks, Chris Henze, Kelly Kulchak, Dulé Hill, James Roday.
TV Movie; USA; Thurs. Dec 7, 8 p.m. 120 min.
- For a feature story on “Psych: The Movie, check out this piece from Variety’s Danielle Turchiano.