Netflix has become a haven for films that would fall flat on the big screen. Most comedies on the streaming platform could be categorized as such, though a few have their merits. Murder Mystery,the latest collaboration between Netflix and Adam Sandler’s Happy Madison Productions, definitely can be described as the former. Though parts of the film will get a few laughs, Murder Mystery fails to be a killer comedy.
Adam Sandler and Jennifer Aniston star in this caper comedy as the Spitz’s, stuck in marriage rut, looking to spark things up. Sandler plays Nick, a cop who, out of obligation, takes his wife Audrey (Aniston) on a long over due honeymoon to Europe. He is lying to Audrey about many things, including how this vacation is being paid for and failing his detective’s exam. While on the plane, Audrey meets Charles Cavendish, an heir with a broken heart and major uncle issues as his ex fiancé left him and married his uncle Malcolm (Terence Stamp) for his fortune. After being invited on Malcolm’s boat by Charles and meeting a whole array of characters, Audrey and Nick are witness to fine food, drink, accommodations and murder. With millions of dollars on the line and many heirs gunning for their inheritance, everyone on the boat becomes a suspect, including the couple. As they race across the Mediterranean to prove their innocence, people from that fateful night keep getting murdered, forcing the Spitz’s to solve the murders and their marriage.
Aniston and Sandler are subtly charming with what they are given, with Sandler pulling back from his normally over the top characters into a subdued New York cop. This might be the most “straight man” we have ever seen Sandler, as the cop, as well as a full blown caterpillar mustache, suits him. Aniston plays his tired but sweet wife, who loves murder mysteries and just wants to take an over due vacation with her husband. The subdued and curmudgeonly Sandler has a few good one liners and as usual Aniston bounces off of him pretty well.
The real wasted potential falls with the rag tag team of suspects. Adeel Akhtar (The Big Sick), John Kani (Black Panther), and Luis Gerardo Méndez (Netflix’s Club de Cuervos) are severely underused and play into the borderline offensive racial portrayals of a Happy Madison production. For example, Méndez’s character cannot speak any English and Akhtar’ character has a moment where he can’t “perform.” They could receive a pass because these traits could just be applicable to the characters and not to the cultures they come from, however it doesn’t always sit well given recent strides and demands for better racial representation.
Luke Evans, who still seems to be looking his star-making performance, falls into the background as the mysterious and scorned nephew of the victim and the ex-fiancé of his uncle’s new wife. Like the rest of the cast, he isn’t given much to work with and seems underused. I normally really gravitate toward Gemma Arterton’s (Their Finest) performances, but as a vapid actress, she fell flat. Her storyline felt strung together at the last minute and parts overacted.
Despite some solid lines and comedic moments, the film feels sleepy, like its not awakened to its full potential. Like any Happy Madison production, it relies on archetypes of the genre, though not as heavily as its previous films. This means that instead of creating in-depth characters, stereotypes for comedic effect will have to do. None of the suspect’s backstories are really explored in a memorable way, which is a shame as it would pull the audience into the story more than the stale marriage of Sandler’s and Aniston’s characters. That’s really all the emotional depth the film has to offer, but there are a few solid comedic moments anchoring it. As a summer flick it’s pretty mindlessly enjoyable, but that’s what we’ve come to expect from Sandler and Happy Madison.
Rating: 2.5 out of 5