'The Afterparty' review: After the party it's the murder-mystery

Apple TV+ offering has plenty of style but central mystery runs flat.

Tom Long
Special to The Detroit News

“The Afterparty” is fast, innovative, features a diverse and talented cast and follows a reliable plot device that’s worked countless times.

So why isn’t it more engrossing? Likely because it’s so busy being cute that it forgets to make you care about any of its characters.

Ben Schwartz and Sam Richardson in "The Afterparty."

There is indeed an afterparty, following a 15-year high school reunion (is there such a thing?). The party is at the opulent coastal home of Xavier (Dave Franco), a high school nobody who went on to pop and movie stardom.

Xavier is thoroughly obnoxious and self-centered, so it’s no big surprise or loss when he’s apparently murdered at the party. The question, as ever, is whodunit?

Enter police detective Danner (Tiffany Haddish) and her assistant, detective Culp (John Early). Danner begins interviewing individual suspects/partygoers and each of their individual perspectives makes up an episode of the show.

Director-creator Christopher Miller (“The Lego Movie,” “21 Jump Street”) has his own spin on this “Rashomon” approach to the story, though. Each episode is directed in a style that fits the character’s perspective — Ike Barinholtz is in an action movie, Zoe Chao is in a piece of animation, Ilana Glazer is in a paranoid horror film. 

Most effectively, Ben Schwartz plays an aspiring musician in a musical that’s all wondrous bluster and self-conscious wit. His high notes work, but too much of the time Miller’s approach is more interesting than involving.

The emotional center of this mystery should be Aniq (Sam Richardson from “Detroiters”), still pining for his high school lab partner and cursed with plenty of motive and opportunity to murder. But he’s overwhelmed by the sheer number of characters — Jamie Demetriou plays a guy no one can remember, Genevieve Angelson drifts through scenes as a weirdo named Indigo, among many others — and styles.

There’s a reason mysteries are generally taut, contained and tight rather than sprawling and chaotic. “The Afterparty” runs in too many directions at once and as a result never gets anywhere in particular.

Tom Long is a longtime contributor to The Detroit News. 

'The Afterparty'

GRADE: C

Apple+ TV