‘Mr. Monk’s Last Case’ revives the germ-phobic detective, now that we’re all him

MR. MONK'S LAST CASE: A MONK MOVIE -- Pictured: Tony Shalhoub as Adrian Monk -- (Photo by: Steve Wilkie/PEACOCK)

Tony Shalhoub returns as Adrian Monk in “Mr. Monk’s Last Case: A Monk Movie.”Steve Wilkie/PeacockCNN — 

Coming 14 years after the series signed off, “Mr. Monk’s Last Case: A Monk Movie” – a movie version of the USA network show synergistically made for sister streaming service Peacock – not only reflects the passage of time but concocts a credible excuse for getting the gang back together. Funny, sentimental, and anchored as always by Tony Shalhoub’s “defective detective,” it’s a worthy follow-up that goes beyond just being a nostalgic exercise.

For starters, this 90-ish-minute movie incorporates the impacts of Covid, which, as someone notes, turned the rest of the world into a hand-sanitizer-using version of the title character. Told “Everybody’s you” now, Shalhoub deadpans, “They’re gonna hate it.”

Indeed, Adrian Monk is not surprisingly sort of hating retirement, engaging in long conversations with his late wife (Melora Hardin) and struggling to hold himself together. Fortunately, series creator Andy Breckman comes up with a credible and personal reason to bring him out of retirement, with help from the old crew, including Stottlemeyer (Ted Levine), Disher (Jason Gray-Stanford) and former assistant Natalie (Traylor Howard), whose decision to move on is naturally treated as an act of betrayal.

As for the target, James Purefoy co-stars as a rocket-flying billionaire who might harbor few compunctions about eliminating somebody perceived as a threat to his pampered and privileged life. While hardly a novel idea (bad-guy billionaires have become a dime a dozen in TV drama), it’s enough of a reason for a guy who, as it’s noted, solved 140 homicides to bring his grand total to 141.

As with the series, the who– and howdunit aspects of the story remain secondary to the simple pleasures of watching Monk, with all his quirks and tics courtesy of his obsessive-compulsive disorder and various phobias, try to navigate simple things that most of us take for granted.

“Monk” was one of several detectives with a difference during his heyday, Sherlock Holmes with an extra helping of neuroses and elevated degree of difficulty. Shalhoub won three Emmys for the role, and if the TV movie still has a chance against splashier limited series, he might want to brush off his “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” tuxedo.

Creating a vehicle to reprise all of that is difficult as well, but “Mr. Monk’s Last Case” manages to make it look relatively easy. And while the https://kolechai.com title states (or at least implies) this is Monk’s goodbye, given how seamlessly Shalhoub and company slide back into it, Peacock might be well advised to keep a few extra gallons of hand sanitizer in reserve.

“Mr. Monk’s Last Case: A Monk Movie” premieres December 8 on Peacock.

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