REVIEW: Murder Mystery (2019)

Release Poster – Netflix

The following is a review Murder Mystery — Directed by Kyle Newacheck.

I go back and forth when it comes to Adam Sandler. I love plenty of the audience-favorite comedian’s films. I think Sandler is gifted with tremendous dramatic talent, which he showcased with his performances in Paul Thomas Anderson’s Punch-Drunk Love and Noah Baumbach’s The Meyerowitz Stories. He is still a very funny stand-up comedian if his excellent Netflix special Adam Sandler: 100% Fresh is anything to go by. But, more often than not, Sandler is known for his comedies. More often than not, Sandler is known for his not-so-fresh, critically panned comedies. Sandler and Netflix have made about a handful of Happy Madison-comedies together, and, thankfully, though Murder Mystery isn’t exactly a home-run, it is far superior to the godawful, snoozefest that last year’s The Week Of, arguably the worst film of 2018, was.

Kyle Newacheck’s Murder Mystery is an American comedy version of an ‘Agatha Christie murder mystery narrative’ complete with modern recurring jokes about what pills your husband gets you, penis jokes, and jokes about foreigners. The film follows Nick Spitz (played by Adam Sandler), an NYPD police officer who is terrible with a gun in his hand and who has failed his detective exam time and time again, as he lies to his wife, Audrey Spitz (played by Jennifer Aniston), about a promotion and about her anniversary gift. Hoping not to disappoint his wife, he gifts her tickets to Europe for a vacation, which they cannot afford, that he has been promising her for more than a decade.

But the vacation isn’t exactly the dream they’ve been chasing. As traditional middle-class Americans, they have no way of getting the first-class treatment that they so desire. Thankfully, Audrey makes a new friend on the plane while Nick is asleep. Her new friend is first-class ticketholder Charles Cavendish (played by Luke Evans) who, on a whim, invites them onto his family’s yacht for a fancy, luxurious trip through European waters.

But, of course, it doesn’t go well. On the yacht are all different kinds of wealthy individuals. There is an actress, as well as foreign rulers, colonels, and security guards. Add to that, there is also a race-car driver who doesn’t understand a word of English. These people have all gathered on the boat for a family and friends get-together, but the owner of the yacht has assembled them for a particular purpose. The elderly billionaire Malcolm Quince (played by Terence Stamp) wants to disown them all and sign off all of his riches to his young bride. But before he is able to do so the lights go out, and Quince is stabbed and killed during all of the confusion. Suddenly, Nick and Audrey find themselves in a European murder mystery and everyone is a suspect.

It’s been a joke for the longest time that when Adam Sandler is in a comedy that doesn’t just take place in Los Angeles or New York, he is essentially being paid to go on a vacation while he’s shooting a cheap comedy. And, yes, Murder Mystery is another easy victim to lob that joke at. There are elements of the film that do feel cheap or lazy. For one, the recurring drug store medicine joke is absolutely terrible, and the title screen for the film is amateurish and awkward as it comes out of nowhere. Also, the set-up feels rushed and clumsy. With all of that having been said, though, the plot is quite exciting to the casual eye and the film features marketable actors in supporting roles, which means that this film has more things going for it than your average made-for-Netflix Sandler-comedy.

However, there was a moment in the film where I thought Sandler and Aniston might be making fun of middle-class Americans with how their characters reacted to luxury and celebrities. It rubbed me the wrong way, so to speak. And, frankly, what this movie made me think of was that one joke from Jonathan Levine’s Long Shot where the characters argued that Jennifer Aniston never became a real movie star and that she is still a television actress. Apparently, I just learned, that was a joke that gossip newspapers claim Aniston is upset about. But Murder Mystery definitely won’t win anyone over to Aniston’s side of the argument.

But I digress. Murder Mystery might be the perfect made-for-Netflix Sandler-comedy as it features recognizable stars, a decidedly fun mystery plot, fancy buildings, and luxurious trips. It may not be all that memorable or particularly good, but it’ll be the perfect film to doze off to for many of the streaming service’s users. For me, though, except for the fun final shot which references Agatha Christie-directly, I doubt that there is anything of value that I’ll remember this Netflix film for, even though it might be the most watchable of Sandler’s made-for-Netflix comedies.

5 out of 10

– Jeffrey Rex Bertelsen.

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