Film reviews and more since 2009

Murder Mystery (2019) review

Dir. Kyle Newacheck

By: Steve Pulaski

Rating: ★★½

Of all the places Adam Sandler’s recent batch of Netflix films could go, it’s still surprising his latest, Murder Mystery, is essentially Agatha Christie by way of Happy Madison. While the project is not as involving nor as impressively farcical as something like Broken Lizard’s Club Dread but nowhere near as insufferable as the likes of The Ridiculous 6 or Sandy Wexler, the comedic caper remains buoyant largely because it doesn’t do anything to make you outright loathe it — as backhanded as that sounds. Sandler doesn’t don a phony accent nor crowd the film with cameos in conjunction with a limp concept, which lets the core mystery and likable couple at the center shine.

Sandler reunites with Just Go With It co-star Jennifer Aniston to play Nick and Audrey Spitz, a New York couple celebrating their 15th wedding anniversary. They’re mostly content with their marriage, although Audrey could stand for a little more excitement, which prompts Nick, who just failed the test to go from a sergeant to detective, to impulsively book the couple a trip to Europe that he promised when they first got hitched. On the plane, Audrey bumps into the wealthy, suave Charles Cavendish (Luke Evans), who invites the couple to join him on a family yacht in favor of the trip they had planned. Audrey and Nick can’t refuse such an offer, and wind up caught in the cross-hairs of a contentious family debacle over the will of billionaire mogul Malcom Quince (Terence Stamp). Before Quince can sign his name on the will, he is murdered in cold blood, and the list of suspects excludes no one on the yacht: Grace Ballard (Gemma Arterton), Colonel Ulenga (John Kani), Suzi Nakamura (Shioli Kutsuna), Sergei Radjenko (Ólafur Darri Ólafsson), Tobias Quince (David Walliams), Juan Carlos Rivera (Luis Gerardo Mendez), Maharajah Vikram Govindan (Adeel Akhtar), and Lorenzo (Victor Turpin). After the murder, Inspector Laurent Delacroix (Danny Boon in his best Hercule Poirot parody) is hired to investigate, and quickly sets his sights on Nick and Audrey as the prime suspects, prompting the couple to try and swiftly clear their names.

Although it was a largely unfunny slog of mean-spirited comedy, Just Go With It showed that Adam Sandler and Jennifer Aniston had real chemistry as an on-screen couple, and that is only put on a greater display here. With their laidback demeanors, they effectively set the tone for a comedy that’s pleasantly relaxed in contrast to the ordinarily stuffy murder mysteries of the bygone era. It’s not better than many of those, of course, but it fits the tone of typical Sandler/Happy Madison projects, and makes this one inoffensive and casual. It’s gotten to the point now that when Sandler manages to dial down his predictably erratic, schlocky humor for something a bit more reserved, it’s a revelation that he can be a tolerable screen presence for an upwards of 100 minutes. He’s shown us this many times before, but after four questionable or downright dismal offerings for the titan of streaming platforms, we were very much in need of said revelation.

Outside of Sandler and Aniston, the cast is serviceable with characters unlikely to leave much of an impression, a major shortcoming for mystery movies both serious and silly. Gemma Arterton makes the most of her snotty actress role, Luke Evans has never been more handsome and distinguished, and Adeel Akhtar gets a laugh or two, but for the most part, the characters are weak given the genre in which they’re working. Writer James Vanderbilt’s attention is more on the humorous mystery at hand, and how glaringly obvious it is for any outsider to believe that Nick and Audrey are the prime suspects. The central mystery provides enough fuel for the project to move at a leisurely but manageable pace. It’s one of the more plot-focused Sandler efforts, which helps things all around, and while it’s not as funny as it could be, it’s amusing — exactly the kind of entertainment that loans itself to Netflix as opposed to the big-screen.

NOTE: Murder Mystery is streaming on Netflix.

My review of Murder Mystery 2

Starring: Adam Sandler, Jennifer Aniston, Luke Evans, Gemma Arterton, Danny Boon, Adeel Akhtar, John Kani, Shioli Kutsuna, Ólafur Darri Ólafsson, David Walliams, Luis Gerardo Mendez, Victor Turpin, and Terrence Stamp. Directed by: Kyle Newacheck.

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About Steve Pulaski

Steve Pulaski has been reviewing movies since 2009 for a barrage of different outlets. He graduated North Central College in 2018 and currently works as an on-air radio personality. He also hosts a weekly movie podcast called "Sleepless with Steve," dedicated to film and the film industry, on his YouTube channel. In addition to writing, he's a die-hard Chicago Bears fan and has two cats, appropriately named Siskel and Ebert!

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