The One Where I Blog About The New Monk Movie

I love cozy mysteries. Thriller-type mysteries are good too. I’m looking forward to the new Jack Reacher season. But one of my favorite genres in both live-action and books is the cozy mystery. A detective or amateur sleuth has to solve a crime and the story doesn’t focus on the gore of the murder or the action in fights, but the characters. The mystery itself. The sometimes mustache-twirling bad guys who think they’re smarter than everyone in the room. And the charming and light-hearted story that revolves around the whole thing.

Monk and Psych are two of my favorite cozy mysteries and I’d probably rank Monk above Psych. By the end of the series for Psych I thought the characters and the show itself became a little too slapstick for me. But that’s a topic for another time.

Today I wanted to talk about the new Monk movie, Mr. Monk’s Last Case, because I was genuinely excited for another visit with everyone’s favorite phobia-ridden,  mystery solving detective. I knew about Monk when it originally aired, but I never really watched it. I may have seen part of an episode or two, but back then I hadn’t refined my tastes to the allure of the cozy mystery. It was all bang-bang, shoot-em up movies, especially if it had space wizards with laser swords.

When I did come around to Monk, though, it was honestly a revelation and that’s not hyperbole. It was funny and Tony Shalhoub’s portrayal of Adrian Monk was quirky that it made me laugh. But what I think I loved the most about it, and still do to this day, is that Monk, the character and the show, wasn’t just about the laughs. It had them, sure, but it had something that seems really hard for other shows to pull off along with it’s comedy aspect; heart.

Adrian Monk was in mourning over the death of his wife and her unsolved murder. We got glimpses into that mourning when he was talking to his therapist and talks about not wanting to be the way he is. Like when he sees Trudy at moments when he’s close to death because of his investigations. Or when he turns off the morphine on the man who made the car bomb that killed Trudy, turns his back to the man, making the viewer think he’s finally snapped. Only to turn back and turn the morphine back on for the man and say that it wasn’t him who turned the morphine back on but it was Trudy.

The heart displayed on the show wasn’t just for Monk either. Stottlemeyer goes through a divorce, Sharona thinks she’s having a mental breakdown, and Natalie is even introduced to us with an in-home robbery where she kills the intruder. Even Randy Disher has his moment in Mr. Monk Goes To The Dentist, where he quits being a detective because no one believes him about what he saw.

The comedy of Monk is what drew me in, but the heart of Monk is what kept me coming back time after time.

With the new movie, Mr. Monk’s Last Case, I think the writers and producers were trying to hit those same notes for the titular character. Unfortunately I think in trying to do so they actually regressed the character back to worse then he was in the season finale.

Spoiler alerts for those who haven’t finished the series, but Monk does eventually solve the case of who killed his wife. I have a sort of love/hate relationship with the series finale because while I do like the initial reason for her death and how it was told, it felt odd to me that Monk immediately developed a connection with Trudy’s adult daughter.

I understand that she was a lasting connection to the love of his life, but it felt a bit odd how that seemed to stabilize Monk and his feelings about Trudy’s death. By the end of the episode though, we see that Monk has progressed to the point were he was even going to go to the movies with Molly, Trudy’s daughter. Then he and Natalie are called about a new case.

It left the series in a nice little bow, and we knew not all of Monk’s problems and phobias were gone, but we saw a nice development and maturity for the character. That he was progressing toward whatever a new normal is for Monk.

In Mr. Monk’s Last Case, we open with Monk meeting with two people about a book he was supposed to have written based on the many murder cases he’s solved. Of course, Monk being Monk, he overdid it and a stack of what looked to be thousands of pages sit on the editor’s desk, with no clear story or direction for his book. She tells him that he was going to need to give the advance back and this rocks Monk because he was going to use that money for Molly’s wedding.

As he’s leaving the building, he finds a window and looks out to the street down below. Then he unlatches the lock on the window and lifts it up. He’s honestly thinking about jumping out the window and killing himself. He’s only stopped because Trudy’s ghost/memory shows up (I’m still not sure what to call it) and tells him to stop thinking like that.

This is the biggest problem I have with the new movie because it’s a common theme played out through it’s entirety. Monk has a plan to kill himself and he’s putting off doing anything someone asks of him because of his “plans”. He’s saved up pills be over-filling his prescription and he’s going to commit suicide.

Now, at first I think we’re led to believe it’s because the pandemic. Molly even says when the pandemic hit it regressed Monk and we get a brief view of him in a hazmat suit. Ever since then, she says, he hasn’t been he same.

Of course Randy Disher moved away in the finale, but Stottlemeyer has been off on a secret new job he took after he retired, which we find out is head of security for the movie’s villain, Rick Eden. And Natalie has moved away too. The only person left was Molly, and apparently when Natalie moved away, Monk stopped doing cases even though the new captain at the San Francisco Police Department has asked him back.

Even though all of this kind of seems like the reason for Monk’s regression, we’re actually given the real one in his therapy session with Dr. Bell.

While talking to him, Monk reveals he’s been seeing Trudy more and more and Dr. Bell realizes that Monk is suicidal. Monk doesn’t think he’s made a difference because things always get worst.

This entire premise that Monk doesn’t think he’s made a difference doesn’t connect with me. What about the little boy he grew attached to in Mr. Monk and the Kid? He grew so attached to him that when asked in that episode if he has any children he said yes.

What about Mr. Monk and the Dog, where Monk briefly takes care of a dog and grows so attached that he stops her from being killed because she and her puppies could be proof who the murderer was. Not only that, but he can’t bare to let the dog be parted with her puppies.

Okay, I feel like Marci in Mr. Monk and His Biggest Fan when she’s naming all of his cases as they’re called in the series. But seriously!

What about Trudy’s murder itself? The closure that Monk got after finally solving the case!

I guess none of that matters now.

Another thing that bothered me was Molly. I think the actress did a fine job, but the entire movie just felt like we were supposed to feel more for her than I did. I understand Monk’s attachment to her, even though as I said earlier, it still feels weird that he was so happy to meet Trudy’s daughter after all those years of never knowing she even existed. That aside, besides Monk’s attachment to her, there’s no real for fans to root for her or feel for her when her fiancé dies, or understand why she accuses the bad guy of the movie. Sure, the villain does villainy stuff, but she just accuses him of killing her fiancé out of the blue and it doesn’t add up.

For a brief moment it reminded me of Natalie accusing the rap mogul in Mr. Monk and the Rapper, but Natalie had a reason to accuse him. She didn’t like that fact that Monk wasn’t taking her serious, so even if it was an outlandish allegation (that turned out to be true), it still made sense. Molly accusing the Rick Eden doesn’t really make sense to me, even if it’s true.

The movie did have some funny moments. Monk taking his personal hand sanitizer machine places was funny. His OCD to make all of the tennis court light switches got a laugh out of me because that was so Monk.

The cliff scene kind of jumped the shark for me. I didn’t understand how Monk survived the fall after they showed up the rocky beach below with the ocean further out. I feel like it was only done for the astronaut woman blow up doll payoff.

In the end, Monk ends up solving the case and after everything we’ve been through, he’s STILL going to kill himself. He’s sitting in the park where he proposed to Trudy, with the ghost/memory of Trudy at his side, still urging him not to do it.

It isn’t until Molly’s fiancé shows up, a ghost himself, and thanks Monk for helping solve his case. For bringing him peace. Then a number of other ghosts show up and they all thank Monk. Except there’s one ghost there that Monk doesn’t recognize. She says her case hasn’t been solved. She’s a cold case at the police department and she’s waiting on him. This is when Monk finally decides to not commit suicide by overdosing on the pills he’s saved, and triumphantly walks back to his life with his ghosts walking behind him.

Like I said, I think I understand what the writers were going for with this, but it just didn’t feel like Monk. He saved the day, he helped bring closure for Molly, and Dr. Bell told him how much good he’s done, but none of that was enough. Besides all of that, none of his prior cases and memories were enough either. He had to physically see the ghosts in front of him to get him back on course.

It felt hollow.

I also wish we would’ve at least gotten a small cameo of Sharona and Harold, and where they were now. Sharona is referenced and Harold is named in one of Monk’s goodbye letters he plans for everyone to have when he dies, but it would’ve been nice bit to have the actual cameos of them, if the actors were available. And Monk’s brother, Ambrose! Where was he?

In the end, this movie felt like an episode during the middle of a season where they thought it was okay, maybe not the best, but good enough to fill an episode of Monk while they save the better episodes for later in the season.


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