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Murder Mystery Movie Review

Murder Mystery (2019) movie poster Murder Mystery

Netflix Release: June 14, 2019 / Running Time: 102 Minutes / Rating: PG-13

Director: Kyle Newacheck / Writer: James Vanderbilt

Cast: Adam Sandler (Nick Spitz), Jennifer Aniston (Audrey Spitz), Luke Evans (Charles Cavendish), Gemma Arterton (Grace Ballard), Shioli Kutsuna (Suzi Nakamura), Luis Gerardo Mιndez (Juan Carlos Rivera), David Walliams (Tobias Quince), Adeel Akhtar (Maharajah Vikram Govindan), Dr. John Kani (Colonel Ulenga), Olafur Darri Olaffson (Sergei Leonev), Terence Stamp (Malcolm Quince), Dany Boon (Inspector Laurent de la Croix), Erik Griffin (Jimmy Stern), Jackie Sandler (Great Looking Flight Attendant)


In the past few years, Adam Sandler has gone from one of Hollywood's top-paid movie stars to one of Netflix's top-paid movie stars. Sandler still enjoys substantial creative control and reaches a wide audience. He just no longer has to worry about theater counts, box office numbers and
the scrutiny that comes from comparing publically-declared budgets to officially reported earnings. Sandler has continued to flex the acting muscles that earned him a Golden Globe nomination for Punch-Drunk Love on projects like Noah Baumbach's The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected) and the Safdie Brothers' upcoming Uncut Gems. But his bread and butter continues to be the comedies he makes with his friends in exactly the way he wants to.

The Netflix original movies that came from his landmark four-picture, $250-million deal can be described just like that. The Ridiculous 6, The Do-Over, Sandy Wexler, and The Week Of were the same kind of critically derided, low-effort comedies that Sandler's Happy Madison Productions label was making primarily for Sony since the 1990s. But it's clearly working for both of them, since in 2017 Netflix doubled down on the deal, expanding it to eight movies (and presumably half a billion dollars).

Sandler's latest, Murder Mystery, is not as tasteless and flagrantly bad as the aforementioned. Perhaps that is to be expected since this project did not originate with Sandler and his stable of longtime collaborators. Instead, Murder Mystery is penned by James Vanderbilt, screenwriter of David Fincher's Zodiac and The Amazing Spider-Man (which no one seems to have thought was all that amazing). The film was announced back in 2012 with John Madden (Shakespeare in Love, The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel) slated to direct and Charlize Theron in talks to star. A year later, Sandler, Emily Blunt, and Colin Firth were reported as joining the cast, though that was disputed by Blunt and Firth. Later that year, Theron and Madden departed the project (though she retains an executive producer credit here). Six years later, it finally materializes looking like a classic Happy Madison Sandler vehicle, the kind that used to consistently gross $100 million or more in theaters domestically.

In Netflix's "Murder Mystery", delayed honeymooners Nick (Adam Sandler) and Audrey Spitz (Jennifer Aniston) find themselves aboard the Mediterranean Queen via an invitation from Charles Cavendish (Luke Evans).

Sandler reunites here with his Just Go With It leading lady Jennifer Aniston, who hasn't picked up a theatrical credit in three years but still carries more clout than Sandler's other Netflix co-stars to date. The two play Nick and Audrey Spitz, a married New York couple. He's an NYPD officer who has thrice failed the test to be made detective. She's a hairdresser. On the fifteenth anniversary of their wedding, Audrey gets on Nick to make good on the European honeymoon he promised but they've never taken. He tells her that's just what he had been planning to give her for the anniversary, which is a lie but one that is much better received than the $50 Amazon gift card he bought her would have been.

On the flight out there, Audrey encounters First Class flyer Charles Cavendish (Luke Evans), a wealthy, handsome Brit who invites her and Nick to join him at a family yacht gathering. The only Americans on board, the middle class Spitzes stand out amidst these worldly, affluent leisure seekers. There's a famous film actress (Gemma Arterton), a Maharajah (Adeel Akhtar) who acts like Ali G, a disfigured African colonel (John Kani).

They're all gathered at the behest of Malcolm Quince (Terence Stamp), the billionaire magnate who has just married a Japanese model (Shioli Kutsuna) who is not even a third of his age. Malcolm announces he's dissolved the will that would give a hefty inheritance to everyone he's invited and will instead give the entirety of his fortune to his young new trophy wife. Right before he can sign the document, though, the lights go off and Malcolm is murdered. Following his announcement, everyone on board to be slighted by the revised will is a murder suspect.

But suspicion instead falls upon the Americans that hardly anyone really knows. As they try clearing their names and do some haphazard investigating of their own to challenge the assertions of the French inspector (Dany Boon) assigned to the case, they find their fellow suspects in grave danger, all the while looking increasingly guilty themselves.

Audrey (Jennifer Aniston) and Nick Spitz (Adam Sandler) find themselves suspected of multiple murders on their European vacation in "Murder Mystery."

It seems pretty clear that Murder Mystery was conceived as a kind of contemporary take on Agatha Christie, only to be retrofitted as a venue for Sandler and Aniston to reunite. As in their previous film together, the pair give this one broad appeal and breezy watchability that makes it ideal as the Netflix offering that millions will choose to unwind with at the end of a taxing work week. For a whodunit, the film requires very little thinking. You can turn off your brain and simply enjoy the casual and sometimes amusing husband and wife banter. For me, even after many comic misdeeds like Jack and Jill and You Don't Mess with the Zohan, Sandler has never lost his goofy likability.
It's integral to his best films and it helps elevate a not terribly imaginative effort like this be better than what it would be with most other leading men. It's still middling at its best, but there are some chuckles to be had. Sandler's chemistry with Aniston is as good as it's been with any comic actress (with the possible exception of three-time co-star Drew Barrymore). And it's easy to imagine the two lead actors who broke out in '90s television doing much worse things than this in their early fifties.

Murder Mystery is directed by "Workaholics" creator and supporting player Kyle Newacheck, who perhaps injects this with a tad more panache than the increasingly lazy directors Sandler usually works with. Or it could just be the scenic sights of Italy where this was partly filmed last summer. I can easily imagine this movie racking up the kind of viewership numbers that Netflix likes to see (but keep us from seeing). Sandler's shtick may not be something people feel compelled to pay $10 or so to see on the big screen, but they'll gladly watch it for free with a paid subscription and most will find this gentle European escapism more appetizing than Sandler's other Netflix films. Cineastes and critics may cry foul, but they've got Uncut Gems to look forward to and that's a movie that will need them more than this.

Related Reviews:
Now in Theaters: Men in Black International • Toy Story 4 • Aladdin • Ma • The Secret Life of Pets 2 • Late Night • Booksmart
Adam Sandler: Just Go With It • Pixels • Punch-Drunk Love • The Cobbler • Grown Ups • Blended
Jennifer Aniston: Horrible Bosses The Bounty Hunter • Office Christmas Party • We're the Millers
Luke Evans: Beauty and the Beast (2017) | Gemma Arterton: Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters | Dany Boon: Micmacs
The Tourist • Clue • Murder on the Orient Express
Directed by Kyle Newacheck: Workaholics: Seasons 1 & 2
Written by James Vanderbilt: Zodiac • The Amazing Spider-Man • Truth • Independence Day: Resurgence • White House Down

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Reviewed June 13, 2019.

Text copyright 2019 DVDizzy.com. Images copyright 2019 Netflix, Happy Madison Productions, Endgame Entertainment, and Vinson Films.
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