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Review: Tony Shalhoub makes the 'Monk' movie an obsessively delightful reunion

It's no secret that nostalgia is in in Hollywood right now. It's also no secret that remakes, revivals and reboots often make for terrible TV. But every once in awhile, we can revisit a beloved TV show or film without cringing or sighing. We can remember what we loved about it before and find that love again.

That's the happy scenario with "Mr. Monk's Last Case" (now streaming, ★★★ out of four), a Peacock film that reunites the cast of USA Network's "Monk," which aired from 2002-09. Starring Tony Shalhoub as Adrian Monk, a brilliant detective with obsessive compulsive disorder, anxiety and germophobia, "Monk" ran for eight seasons, won eight Emmy awards and used more antiseptic wipes than a hospital cleaning crew. Bringing the gang back together for "Last Case" is easy breezy: a delightful trip down memory lane with a little bit of murder and mayhem. It's a sweet-as-pie (but not too sweet) reunion that captures the tone and spirit of the original show but also feels apt for 2023, a rare feat.

Tony Shalhoub as Adrian Monk in "Mr. Monk's Last Case."
Tony Shalhoub as Adrian Monk in "Mr. Monk's Last Case."

We find Adrian Monk in a dark place: The COVID-19 pandemic brought out the most debilitating symptoms of his mental illnesses. He's been spending a great deal of time with Molly (Caitlin McGee), the daughter of his late wife who was introduced late in the series. It's Molly's wedding that brings Monk's former assistant Natalie (Traylor Howard) and police colleagues Randy Disher (Jason Gray-Stanford) and Leland Stottlemeyer (Ted Levine) together in sunny San Francisco once again. But when Molly's fiancé dies mysteriously, a day before their wedding, Adrian is forced to get over his latest breakdown and hunt for a killer. He brings his own hand sanitizer.

Traylor Howard as Natalie Teeger, Tony Shalhoub as Adrian Monk, Jason Gray-Stanford as Randy Disher, Ted Levine as Leland Stottlemeyer in "Mr. Monk's Last Case."
Traylor Howard as Natalie Teeger, Tony Shalhoub as Adrian Monk, Jason Gray-Stanford as Randy Disher, Ted Levine as Leland Stottlemeyer in "Mr. Monk's Last Case."

Shalhoub is, of course, compulsively perfect once again in the role that garnered him three Emmy awards. He slides easily into Monk's tweed jackets and high collars, with every tick and quirk recreated and aged up appropriately. It feels simultaneously like 14 years have passed and no time has gone by at all; Shalhoub, 70, has always been Monk, even when he was off on other adventures.

His co-stars also seamlessly return to "Monk" form, and seem to have a lot of fun doing it. Levine always chewed scenery to his heart's content under police journeyman Stottlemeyer's bushy mustache, and he wastes no time chomping down on his new material. A particular treat is the return of Hector Elizondo, who has mostly retired from acting but makes a comeback for a few short scenes as Monk's therapist. An emotional moment that finds both veteran actors in tears is sure to pull on the heartstrings of even the most stoic viewer.

Caitlin McGee as Molly in "Mr. Monk's Last Case."
Caitlin McGee as Molly in "Mr. Monk's Last Case."

Hollywood is seemingly stuck in a time loop, reviving and remaking old stories over and over again in the quest to woo viewers with even a slightly familiar title or cast. Most of these rehashes aren't worth a glance. Occasionally, though, as with "Last Case," there is more than just nostalgia propping up the story. It was a gosh-darn delight to revisit Mr. Monk's San Francisco, and I would happily be wooed back again if this isn't really his last case.

Tony Shalhoub talks 'Monk': How he made a reunion movie fans will really want to see

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: 'Monk' movie review: Shalhoub reunites cast on Peacock