They had us at Shawn. Everybody’s favorite show about a crime-solving fake psychic (not The Mentalist) returned on Thursday night for Psych: The Movie, bringing blue skies — well, rainy Vancouver skies — back to USA Network for a cinematic event that might even rival Gremlins (Juliet’s “favorite Christmas movie”). Other revivals might buckle under the weight of so many callbacks, but Psych was built for this sort of self-referential fun; the more Pluto pick-up lines, 29-point turns, and harmonized “suck it”s this movie gave us, the more it felt like Psych. Like the show, the movie was delightfully, rebelliously unconcerned with bringing in new audiences, so your mileage may have varied depending on how much “fries quatros quesos dos fritos” means to you. But for fans, Psych: The Movie was a two-hour detour out of 2017 and back to something closer to 2007, and that’s a holiday gift we shouldn’t take (Mary) lightly.
It’s been three years since Shawn (James Roday) followed newly minted SFPD Head Detective Juliet (Maggie Lawson) to San Francisco and asked her to marry him — mostly him, but also sort of Gus (Dulé Hill). Since then, Shawn has opened a Gremlins-inspired Psych office with a mouthful of a name (Psychphransisco), Gus has found a stable office job and embraced the local sourdough scene, and Jules has continued to thrive in the sweet loft she shares with Shawn, despite the fact that he literally still hasn’t put a ring on her finger. He’s on the hunt for his grandmother’s ring, which was nabbed mid proposal, but even a wanted criminal can see that he’s also using the stolen heirloom as an excuse to avoid commitment.
The action kicks off when Juliet’s partner Sam (Sam Huntington) is shot in his seasonally festive apartment by a bottle blond named Billy (Zachary Levi), who’s styled himself as David Bowie’s Thin White Duke persona. There’s plenty of debate among the characters over whether his accent is authentically Bowie (nobody sounds like David Bowie except, Shawn argues, possibly Jemaine Clement), but to my mind it’s closest to that accent Justin Theroux did on Alias. In the spirit of Psych, that’s a reference for about 12 of you.
Shawn and Gus insert themselves into the case, and a tip from Nick Conforth (Ralph Macchio) helps steer them to an abandoned mental hospital, where they find computers with access to SFPD files, including Juliet’s personal info, surveillance photos, and a scanned document entitled “The Crimes of Juliet O’Hara” (“a killer title for a Hallmark movie”). The guys manage to sneak out before Billy and his goons can catch them; in the process, Shawn adorably “liberates” Billy’s guard dog (“Rescue dogs don’t have ugly hearts!”), names him Morrissey, and gifts him to Chief Vick (Kirsten Nelson). It might be the most unforced delight in the whole movie.
Juliet’s been doing her best to handle things on her own, but after one of Billy’s goons — whom the guys dub “Heather Rockrear” (WWE superstar Charlotte Flair) — slips into the hospital and finishes the job on Sam, Jules finally comes clean. She admits to Shawn that her “crimes” were all cases she cut corners on in order to put away guilty criminals. Exactly what protocols did she fudge here? Unclear. But she didn’t do anything illegal, right? Vague nod.
Shawn, who lies for a living, isn’t throwing any stones from his glass house. Lassiter (Timothy Omundson, making a heartbreaking-yet-inspiring guest appearance not long after suffering a stroke) tells Juliet over FaceTime that he has her back — he does whatever it takes to get home to his daughter. But this is the one element of the movie that I just can’t give up and embrace; this is an especially not great time to shrug off a cop getting creative to make an arrest. 2017, get out of my Psych movie!
Anyway, Shawn figures out that Juliet’s snitch is to blame; after he helped her, she sent him to jail anyway. Her snitch, obviously, is Billy, who kidnaps the chief’s daughter Iris (Emma Tremblay) to lure the chief to him. By extension, he lures the whole gang, including Woody (Kurt Fuller), who’s been demoted to coroner’s assistant thanks to an unfortunate chili dog incident, and Henry (Corbin Bernsen), who wears scarves now.
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Everyone winds up on Alcatraz, where Billy is promptly shot by — wait for it — Allison Cowley (Mena Suvari). Yin’s disgraced former assistant took advantage of Billy for his “petty revenge scheme,” which was just so passé, completely unlike hers. Allison is upset that Juliet had to ruin her big criminal ascension, and now she wants a do-over. As for Shawn, he’s just excited that his subconscious figured it out: He had a very surreal dream last night that involved singing the Gin Blossoms’ “Allison Road” with Mary Lightly (Jimmi Simpson), a pony in a onesie (voiced by S.E. Hinton), Juliet as a Princess Leia hologram, and Gus as Prince. It’s a Psych-Out within the movie, because sure, why not?
Dream aside, it’s interesting how little this story relies on Shawn’s abilities — much less the way he packages his abilities as psychic visions. It feels like an extension of Lassiter breaking Shawn’s DVD confession in the finale before he could hear the truth: In the end, it doesn’t matter that Shawn isn’t psychic. That’s a premise the show outgrew as it embraced its ensemble; by this point, it’s enough just to see everyone get into, and out of, trouble together.
So let’s get back to that trouble. While the chief takes off to find Iris, Heather brawls with Henry and Woody. Gus and Shawn take on the other goon (Nathan Mitchell), which mostly means ignoring — or applauding — his sword tricks while they talk about their love lives. Gus made out with a woman at a telescope party (!) who’s been stalking him ever since because she’s basically a female Gus. “She’s almost everything I’ve ever wanted in a woman,” he realizes, “short of being Gugu Mbatha-Raw.” While Gus regrets not giving Selene (Jazmyn Simon) a chance, Shawn wishes he’d married Juliet three years ago. He worries she deserves better, but Gus won’t hear it: “She deserves the best version of you.”
Now that they’ve shared that moment, the guys do “the thing they’re best at”: running away screaming. Everything wraps up chaotically, as it should: Juliet knocks out Allison after a fight, the chief gets the key she needs to rescue Iris, Jules deactivates the bomb with a code that happens to be the date Yin died — it was kind of a big night for her — and Shawn and Gus save Henry using, of all things, the old “Gus is a table” trick. Of all the callbacks in this movie, I am both thrilled and surprised we got “Gus is a table.”
After Allison and her crew are in custody, Shawn’s life is charmed once more…mostly. Back on the docks, he’s approached by the high-end fence, El Proveedor (Robert LaSardo), who threatened his life when he caught Shawn rummaging through his goods in search of the missing ring. Shawn bought himself some time with a few psychic predictions, and El Proveedor is pleased to report that they all came true. Never mind the fact that they only came true because Shawn enlisted his old pal Buzz McNab (Sage Brocklebank) to help things along. (Hi, Buzz!) El Proveedor was so impressed that he tracked down Shawn’s grandmother’s ring — and he also happens to be ordained — and Selene happens to have just shown up with a bouquet of flowers. Shawn and Juliet get married right there while Gus cries sympathetically.
And then, in one last absurd flurry, Juliet’s brother Ewan (John Cena) interrupts the guys on their way to the honeymoon (Gus and Selene are tagging along on, natch) to drag them into some shadowy international intrigue, destroying the office in the process. But what about the Gremlins decor?!
Pineapples for the road:
- It was so good to see Timothy Omundson make an appearance (on screen and in the opening credits), and it’s easy to figure that Maggie Lawson’s tears in that scene were about more than just Juliet. Here’s hoping he’s able to play a bigger role if there are more Psych stories to be told. (For more on that cameo, head here for my colleague Chancellor Agard’s full postmortem with creator Steve Franks.)
- Shawn’s #TeamGrimmie shirt in the final scene is in honor of the late singer Christina Grimmie, a fan of the show.
- A few understated in-jokes: The suspect from the pilot got Shawn onto El Proveedor’s freighter, “Boom Boom Boom Muffins” is on Gus’ business card, and Shawn still has the glass fish from Lassie’s desk.
- What time does Chief Vick go to bed?
- “My name is Burton Guster, and this is my partner, White Privilege.”
- Shout out to Selene’s Get Out joke.
- “Your mama’s pitch black.” “Yeah, we both wish that were true…I don’t know what I mean by that.”
- “Next thing I know Sam’s been killed.” “He’s still breathing!”
- “Gus, don’t be the tender sweetness of a seasick crocodile.”
- Where can I read Mesopotamian Pomeranian, 8-year-old Gus’ contest-winning comic strip about an Egyptian dog that became pharaoh?
- I laughed at Mary banishing Henry from the dream: “This isn’t for you, sir!”
- “My dad’s having a full-on 7/8ths life crisis!”
- “Plus now you know that my real name is Ted.” “Only because you just told me.”
- “I wish I would have known you then. I bet you were a dead ringer for Bud on The Cosby Show.”
- “Where the hell did you get a waffle?”