Of all the “crime procedural... but with a twist!” shows that premiered in the mid-2000s, Psych is the most ridiculously comedic, appealing to a demographic that enjoys goofy jokes (like me), silly physical humor (also me), and overly elaborate, criminal plans (once again, me). The series followed private investigator Shawn Spencer (James Roday Rodriguez), who claims to be a psychic detective, and his partner Gus (Dule Hill). In reality, the two are just very perceptive sleuthers who were too lazy to get traditional police careers.
After ending in 2014, the show followed in the footsteps of Murder, She Wrote and Kojak with a holiday-themed TV movie that picked up after the events of the show. Creator Steve Franks announced later that he’d make five Psych movies if he could, and so far, he’s holding true to that promise (even if it doesn’t involve John Cena as he mentioned in 2017). On Wednesday, Psych 2: Lassie Come Home arrived with the launch of NBC’s new streaming service, Peacock.
The new, streaming-only sequel does an excellent job of playing up the show’s best aspects — the bad jokes, the wacky hijinks, the reveal of the criminal plot that requires you to just nod and go with it — though fans may raise an eyebrow over the infusion of more serious themes. Focusing on the heavier drama ultimately weighs the movie down, but when it sticks to pure shenanigans, it’s a delight.
[Ed. note: This review contains slight spoilers for Psych 2: Lassie Come Home]
Psych 2: Lassie Come Home starts off with a literal bang when the stern Detective Carlton “Lassie” Lasseter (Timothy Omundson) is shot on duty. He wakes up in a hospital, and asks Shawn and Gus to investigate the attack, as he suffered a stroke in surgery and can’t recall the events of that night. Both Shawn and Gus have promised their significant others they won’t take up dangerous cases, but they agree to investigate in secret. But Detective Juliet O’Hara (Maggie Lawson), Shawn’s wife, is also bent on getting to the bottom of this mystery, and Gus’ girlfriend Selene (Jazmyn Simon) decides to tag along. As the two pairs separately investigate the mystery, the case takes twists and turns, allowing Shawn and Gus to get up to their usual misadventures, including (but not limited) hiding in the bottom drawer of a dresser, disguising their coroner friend Woody as a Cuban doctor to sneak him into the hospital, and stealing buckets of ice chips from the patients.
Through the middle of the sleuthing, Psych 2 threads a theme of fatherhood — albeit with the grace of a seven-year-old with an embroidery kit. In the very beginning, Lassie hallucinates his dead father, and the two talk about what it means to be a man, which doesn’t really have anything to do with solving the mystery of who shot him, but it’s serious. A clunkier handling of the theme happens about halfway through the movie, when Shawn discovers a positive pregnancy test in Juliet’s car, then spends the back-half of the movie confronting his fears about fatherhood. The conversations with his own father, and a very painful hallucination involving an old character from the show (who is also dead), get Hallmark-y. When the arc is finally resolved, it’s with a bait-and-switch that may’ve been interesting had it not been so clumsily tugged along for the larger part of the movie’s 88-minute runtime.
When Psych 2 tries to be serious, or addresses serious themes as adult men poop in diapers, it flounders. But when the movie indulges in goofy puns, campy disguises, and hijinks galore, it’s a pleasurable return to form. Making the movie more serious simply because it’s longer than a normal episode is a disservice to Psych’s goofy appeal. The tangled web of mystery doesn’t always make sense, but the best part of Franks’ series was seeing two over-the-top nincompoops untangle over-the-top criminal master plans. Shawn mails a human hand to Woody the coroner and decides to pack the box with some smoked meats, because, hey, shipping would be the same price regardless. The two visit an ice bar and get particular about the ear muffs they’re wearing. A character is named Ova just so the exchange of “It’s not over” / “Yes, it is Ova.” / “No, it’s not over.” / “It is Ova.” can occur.
If there’s anything the serious aspects of Psych 2: Lassie Come Home accomplish, it’s in luring viewers back to old episodes of the show. Shawn and Gus and the rest of the characters are, after all, in a very different place in Psych 2 than they were in the show, more mature and approaching big life decisions like parenthood and marriage. Even if that is delivered in a heavy-handed way, it’s a bit bittersweet to think about how far they’ve come since the early days. That, coupled with the same overall tone of mystery, might just prompt an old fan to consider a rewatch — and, luckily, all eight seasons of the show are available to stream for free on Peacock. Deliberate on NBC’s part? Maybe. But definitely still welcome.
Psych 2: Lassie Come Home is available to stream for free (with ads) on Peacock.