Review: ‘Mr. Monk’s Last Case: A Monk Movie’ – Monk still has something to say

Though Mr. Monk is older and grayer, he still has something to say in Mr. Monk’s Last Case: A Monk Movie. Although it’s billed as a comedy, the movie is surprisingly touching with a message about finding meaning and value in our lives. The film, which premiered on Peacock in December, is a welcome dose of nostalgia and comfort in a fraught world. It perfectly captures the essence of the original Monk show, with humor, satisfying crime solving and great characters. If you’re a fan of Monk or the old blue-sky era USA Network shows, or even if you just like a good procedural, Mr. Monk’s Last Case: A Monk Movie is worth checking out.

Mr. Monk and his legacy

As we age, we wonder about our legacy and if we’ve made a difference in the world. Mr. Monk’s Last Case shows Adrian Monk (Tony Shalhoub) grappling with his legacy in the world. There’s a moment when he’s exasperated by the stories in a newspaper – murder, mayhem, and all-around misery. Monk wonders if all of his work – solving 125 plus murders – has all been for naught, given the suffering still happening in his community. On top of that, Monk is still grieving for his dead wife.

Tony Shalhoub and Melora Hardin in Mr. Monk's Last Case: A Monk Movie. Image courtesy of Peacock.
Tony Shalhoub and Melora Hardin in Mr. Monk’s Last Case: A Monk Movie. Image courtesy of Peacock.

Monk’s trauma is a double whammy, but like the question of legacy, this pain is again not unfamiliar to many older adults. Monk’s television seasons dealt with his quest to find his wife Trudy’s killer as a throughline while he went about the weekly business of solving other murders. In Mr. Monk and The End, Monk’s season finale, Adrian discovers what happened to her and gets closure. Mr. Monk’s Last Case: A Monk Movie has Trudy, played by Melora Hardin, visiting and comforting him in her ghostly way. Because although Monk fulfilled his driving purpose from the series, he still grieves. The movie shows that there is still story to tell and room for Adrian Monk to grow in that grieving headspace The thesis of the new Monk movie is tied to legacy, life, and grief. 

The story of Mr. Monk’s Last Case: A Monk Movie

Please note, there are mild spoilers ahead for the Monk movie. 

Monk has done a lot of good in the world but doesn’t have much to show for it. That’s at least the eccentric detective’s perspective in Mr. Monk’s Last Case: A Monk Movie. Although the post-Covid world has demonstrated many of Monk’s OCD proclivities to be helpful (hand sanitizer! masks!), Monk still can’t get traction to take care of who is important to him. T(the scenes where Monk’s obsession with clean drive some of the best humor in the movie.)A book deal falls through, though, and Monk cannot pay for a large wedding for his stepdaughter, Molly Evans (Caitlin McGee, taking over for Alona Tal). 

Tony Shalhoub in Mr. Monk's Last Case: A Monk Movie. Image courtesy of Peacock.
Tony Shalhoub in Mr. Monk’s Last Case: A Monk Movie. Image courtesy of Peacock.

This adds to Monk’s depression. It’s all for naught, though, because Molly’s fiancé, a journalist named Griffin (Austin Scott), who speaks truth to power and loves to bungee-jump, is killed. The prime suspect is an evil Musk/Bezos-esque billionaire villain named Richard Eden, played by James Purefoy. Like Tom Hanks’ character Otto in A Man Called Otto, Monk decides to end it all. Again, like Otto, a reason keeps him tethered to life. In a ghostly sequence with Trudy, where Monk is planning his end, old friends in town call him dramatically back to action for Molly’s wedding to help solve this case. This moment is particularly wrenching if you’re a parent because you can empathize with Monk’s pain for his stepdaughter.

Mr. Monk and Molly Evans

In some ways, taking on this case is Monk’s attempt at a final act of kindness to Molly Evans, Trudy’s daughter, whom Monk didn’t know about until the series finale but now, someone he’s close with. Through his pursuit of justice for Molly and her fiance, Monk embarks on a rediscovery of his own worth. The lives he’s touched, the justice he’s brought and the unwavering loyalty of his friends are his legacy. 

Monk’s strength has always been his detective skills, but through the eight seasons, he grows, and his friend’s chosen family becomes his strength, too. Mr. Monk’s Last Case: A Monk Movie delivers on the promise of a reunion with those old friends and hammers home the point about how much they all care for Adrian Monk. It reunites Hector Elizondo as Dr. Neven Bell, Jason Gray-Stanford as Randy Disher, Traylor Howard as Natalie Teeger, and Ted Levine as Stottlemeyer. Richard Kind is new to the Monk world, but he’s such a familiar actor, and brings so much humor in this movie, it feels like he’s part of the old troupe of characters. In Mr. Monk’s Last Case: A Monk Movie, it’s comforting for the characters to be surrounded by each other. It’s comforting as a viewer, too. 

The ending of Mr. Monk’s Last Case: A Monk Movie hits hard for a television movie, with a powerful emotional gut punch showing just why Adrian Monk matters so much, and why he should keep going. The final scene lands with as much heft as The Good Place. Of course, in the end, Monk solves the case and there’s a happy ending, but this movie is more about the journey to get there.

A movie built for the small screen

There was a time in entertainment history when television movies were a thing, and streaming was but a twinkle in the eye of an executive somewhere. Mr. Monk’s Last Case: A Monk Movie is a callback to the procedural movies that came before it. It’s something that USA Network did before successfully with Burn Notice’s The Fall of Sam Axe and the Psych movies. 

Mr. Monk’s Last Case: A Monk Movie would be out of place on the big screen, but it fits perfectly on our home screens now, thanks to Peacock. The tightly contained story unfolds like an old school procedural television movie. The murder’s personal connection to Mr. Monk (since his daughter’s fiancé is the victim) presents all sorts of interesting personal stakes for him, and drives growth for a character. It’s tonally accurate to the original Monk TV show and feels like a natural extension of that world. Right now, there are no announced plans for further Monk movies.

Final thoughts on Mr. Monk’s Last Case: A Monk Movie

Is this a conclusion or the start of something new? It’s hard to say. But watching Mr. Monk’s Last Case: A Monk Movie made me want to spend time with Adrian Monk and the gang again. I hope there are more movies like this (and another USA Network show,  Psych) in the future.  And character wise, it’s a It’s a Wonderful Life style turning point where Mr. Monk realizes he has made a difference in the world.

As a whole, Mr. Monk’s Last Case: A Monk Movie is a reminder of the heyday of the USA Network. Blue sky tv was popular for a reason. It’s a nostalgic echo of a bygone viewing era, a warm note in the chilling wind of an uncertain world, especially today. It reminds us that television can soothe even as it challenges our hearts and brings on the tears,  and that sometimes, all we need is a story with an old friend to comfort us.  The Monk movie is worth your time.

Mr. Monk’s Last Case is now streaming

Mr. Monk’s Last Case: A Monk Movie is now streaming on Peacock. Check it out however you enjoy watching streaming movies.

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