There’s probably a few skeptics who see Adam Sandler starring in a movie in 2019 and won’t give it a chance even if it’s on Netflix, but Murder Mystery is well worth checking out. The key here is Sandler doesn’t have to shoulder the load on his own thanks to another memorable comedic performance from his co-star Jennifer Aniston.
It’s probably time we acknowledge Aniston is one of the best comedians of her generation. Her Friends run would be enough to qualify by itself, but her work in films like We’re the Millers and the Horrible Bosses series has shown she is a legitimate draw for this genre.
The Just Go With It stars play Nick and Audrey Spitz, a couple finally taking their long overdue European honeymoon on their 15th anniversary. Nick is desperate to distract Audrey since he lied about passing his detective exam. Still, he deserves major credit for booking a European vacation in less than 24 hours. That’s impressive.
On their flight, Audrey encounters the dashing Charles Cavendish (Luke Evans, The Fate of the Furious), who encourages them to join him on his uncle’s yacht. There’s a little tension there as Charles’ uncle Malcolm (Terrence Stamp, Superman II) stole his fiance, Suzi (Shioli Kutsuna, Deadpool 2).
The rest of the yacht guests are an interesting mix of characters from Malcom’s son Tobey (David Walliams), actress Grace Ballard (Gemma Arterton), Colonel Ulenga (John Kani, Black Panther) and his bodyguard Sergei (Olafur Darri Olafsson), Maharajah (Adeel Akhtar) and race car driver Juan Carlos Rivera (Luis Gerardo Mendez).
After chewing out his guests, Malcolm suddenly winds up dead and everyone’s a suspect, but the most likely candidates are the two random strangers who happened to crash the party. With all eyes on them, Nick and Audrey have to conduct their own investigation, steer clear of the increasingly suspicious Inspector de la Croix (Dany Boon) and avoid getting killed by the real murderer in the process.
It’s a pretty simple story that screenwriter James Vanderbilt (The Amazing Spider-Man 2) wisely avoids making too cute or needlessly complex. Basically the film plays out like a European honeymoon crashing the 1985 cult classic Clue, which proves a very winning formula.
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Aniston is the MVP here as she wonderfully captures Audrey’s enthusiasm and excitement of being in the kind of murder mystery she’s only read about. Audrey isn’t the screeching, helpless wife and is every bit the shrewd crime solver as her would be detective husband.
Sandler always seems to be at his best when he’s not so obviously desperate to get laughs. That was fine in his Happy Gilmore days, but at 52, his performances need to be more nuanced. Sandler finds that ideal middle ground of being slightly obnoxious to get laughs without being annoying.
I was impressed by the diverse cast assembled by casting directors Kathy Driscoll, Andrea Kenyon and Francine Maisler. It’s not often we can see a film whose cast includes Japanese, Mexican, Pakistani, South African, Nordic, British and French performers. And for extra credit, the various cultural backgrounds aren’t spoofed or mocked for the sake of “comedy.”
Director Kyle Newacheck (Happy Endings, Workaholics) paces the film nicely and avoids it ever bogging down to feeling too silly. That’s a common and earned complaint of some recent Sandler films. Newacheck manages to keep a consistent tone that has room for the more comedic moments outside of a running dick joke that stumbles out of the block.
Murder Mystery was a pleasant surprise and another terrific comedy showcase for Aniston.
Rating: 7.5 out of 10
Photo Credit: Netflix