Pete Ingalls, who’s set up shop as a shamus without getting a license or learning anything about the trade except to wear wide-brimmed fedoras and spout 1940s lingo to his secretary Stephanie (a.k.a. “doll,” “angel,” and “skirt”), has a big case on his feckless hands. Charlotte Purdy and Donnie Dansicker, producers of the PBS puppet show Playhouse Pals, have four days to come up with a million bucks before outtakes of their cast cavorting in lewd positions will hit the Internet. Can Pete and the skirt find the blackmailer? No problem. All they have to do is interview 50 overworked staffers, a passel of ill-used former staffers, an ex-wife, a closeted lover, and rival kid-vid talent, and follow the payoff once it gets in the blackmailer’s hands. Oops. Pete loses the money and gets tailed by a guy in a tan suit; a prime suspect is kayoed with his Emmy Award; and the skirt walks out on him. Meanwhile, a beautiful woman wants him to find a necklace she lost in a restaurant—a task complicated by the fact that two other women claim to have lost the same necklace in the same restaurant. Much nonsense ensues before humorist Weiner (Drop Dead, My Lovely, 2004, not reviewed) cues a parody of the Great Detective tell-all with all the suspects gathered ’round.
Gratingly arch, although a few good jabs at kiddie TV and philosophizing gumshoes poke through.