Streaming now on Netflix
Review by Ray Hogan
This summer the movie being most discussed is a small screen production with megawatt star power in the lead roles. It’s a sign of the times that “Murder Mystery” is a Netflix original. But it’s also a throwback in that it stars Adam Sandler and Jennifer Anniston, who both made their names in the 1990s.
As its name states, “Murder Mystery” is a whodunit of the Agatha Christie variety set in modern times and, of course, some of the most beautiful parts of the world.
Sandler and Aniston are Nick and Audrey Spitz, a police officer who can’t pass the detective test and hairdresser, respectively. They’ve been married 15 years but are finally getting around to taking their honeymoon to Italy. On their flight over, they meet Charles Cavendish (Luke Evans), a not-so eccentric nephew to Malcom Quince (Terence Stamp), who invites them to join him on his uncle’s yacht. There they meet a b-movie actress, a maharaja, Russian thug, African colonel, and race car driver. In the midst of amending his will, Quince is stabbed to death.
Let the investigation and speculation begin. There’s a running not-so funny joke about Nick Spitz’s lousy skills with firearms. However, early in the movie there is a save-the-cat moment that reveals he possesses a stunning intuition. The detective work takes them to some of the most coveted places on the planet.
As murder mysteries (sorry, couldn’t resist) go, this is a good one. The chemistry between Sandler and Aniston is strong. Anniston has become a very dependable actress (actually the best of the “Friends” cast). The secondary characters are varied and weird enough to keep the guessing game going. The locales are obviously second to none. In the past month I’ve heard everyone from pre-teens to senior citizens admitting to how much they enjoyed this movie.
Viewers usually “admit” to liking Sandler movies as if it’s a guilty pleasure. He’s basically starred in some sort of variation of “Billy Madison” his entire career. (Let’s exclude “Punch Drunk Love” where he played numb with astonishing skill). The same brand of “humor” he employs in almost all his roles are on display in “Murder Mystery.” For some unknown reason, he finds his wife’s profession a hilarious putdown. (In the same way working at Hooters was the running gag throughout “Big Daddy.”). His over-the-top fawning for the B-level actress is probably toward the top of his acting range. The African colonel has a prosthetic in the same manner of Carl Weathers in “Happy Gilmore.” Hilarious stuff in the Sandler camp. Not so much to the rest of the world. There is a running topic of Claratin’s efficiency over Allegra that for some reason reminds of the “shampoo vs. conditioner” argument in “Billy Madison.” In other words, inappropriate if not asinine. The ethnic stereotypes would be offensive if they weren’t so innocently idiotic.
That said, I’ve been a fan of Sandler since “Billy Madison” as are millions of other moviegoers. I’m not sure what that says of us and am pretty positive I don’t want to know. When Sandler’s career is discussed in film classes 50 years from now, our generation is going to have a lot of explaining to do. Until then, enjoy the ride because “Murder Mystery” is fun, entertaining and a near perfect summer popcorn movie.