Entertainment in the First Degree
A few years ago I would not have given "McBride: The Chameleon Murder" a second look, the sort of made for TV movie which Ch. 5 shows in the afternoon. But then I got hooked on the "Jesse Stone" series of TV movies with Tom Selleck and found myself desiring more of that easy going episodic drama where a nice guy solves a crime with the help of some loyal acquaintances. And that is how I found myself watching "McBride: The Chameleon Murder" the first of 10 movies which sees John Larroquette as curmudgeonly nice guy lawyer Mike McBride who agrees to defend a young man who has been accused of murder and can't afford legal representation. And if you are yet to watch a "McBride" movie but enjoyed "Jesse Stone" the chances are you will enjoy this simple made for TV crime drama.
Care nurse Dudley Banks (Devon Gummersall - Reeker) is heading back to L.A. when he is offered a lift from the classy Whitney Collier (Maeve Quinlan) who drops him at his home. But the next day Dudley is arrested for the murder of Whitney when her bag and money roll is found in his home. Called in by a mutual friend former L.A. Cop turned lawyer Mike McBride (John Larroquette - Wedding Daze) agrees to represent Dudley despite not having the funds to pay for legal representation. With the help of his associate Phil Newberry (Matt Lutz) and sort of girlfriend Sgt. Roberta Hansen (Marta DuBois) McBride uncovers that Whitney Collier was certainly not what she seemed as he seeks to find out who really did murder Whitney and why.
Thinking about the fact that a few years ago I wouldn't have bothered with a "McBride" movie is quite daft because I was brought up on the likes of "Quincy" and to be honest whilst a different era and different characters "McBride" and "Quincy" are not that dissimilar, In fact you could mention a whole variety of TV series such as "Diagnosis Murder" and "Matlock" in the same breath. What does that mean well firstly we have this fun sort of detective element as McBride and Phil set about poking their nose in where it isn't wanted and rubbing a few people up the wrong way as they piece together what really happened. But with Mike McBride being a lawyer we also get the fun of the big reveal in a courtroom as during his defence of Dudley he turns things around to point the finger at the real criminal. It's fun because firstly the actual story to "McBride: The Chameleon Murder" is over the top but also because of McBride's grumpy nice guy persona who you can see has a sense of smugness when he does get to the truth.
What that really means if that "McBride: The Chameleon Murder" is really all about the effectiveness of John Larroquette as Mike McBride and Larroquette is certainly effective. There is this wonderful mix going on of being just that little bit amusing but also fearless when it comes to putting himself in the firing line. It is why the movie works because with out this well played character it would end up being a lot of over the top nonsense but Larroquette makes it all acceptable. Having said that both Matt Lutz as Phil and Marta DuBois as Roberta play there characters well to make an entertaining trio who bounce off of each other.
Now so far all of this has been positive and if I had one criticism is that "McBride: The Chameleon Murder" throws you in to a story and characters without doing much to establish them. What I mean was as the movie started I began to wonder if there was an even earlier movie featuring McBride because there is so little depth given to him. In fairness we learn things as the movie progresses from his time as a cop to how Phil became an associate but it is a case that with "McBride: The Chameleon Murder" you hit the ground running and can take a bit of getting use to.
What this all boils down to is that "McBride: The Chameleon Murder" was an entertaining, over the top but also amusing cop drama which thrives on the likeability of John Larroquette as Mike McBride. It certainly isn't for everyone especially with its easy going style and lack of grit but for those who enjoy simple made for TV cop dramas with good guys who are likeable then this will work.