Murder Mystery sounds less like that title of a movie than a section of the video store you'd go to to find a movie. But video stores don't exist anymore thanks, in no small part, to Netflix rolling up a cement truck's worth of new content each week.
Included in the latest delivery is the next part of Adam Sandler's long-term deal with the streamer. With that brazenly vague title and co-star Jennifer Aniston (who I've never much cared for, though I admit this is not a universally agreed-upon thing) you might think this is one to safely skip. If it involved putting on your shoes and going anywhere, this would absolutely be the case. But for something that's top of the landing page, thus doesn't even require thumb movement, Murder Mystery is surprisingly entertaining.
It wasn't two minutes into this new Happy Madison film when I noticed a difference from, say, The Do-Overor The Ridiculous 6. It was zippy walk-and-talk dialogue between two schlumpy New York Cops (Sandler and Erik Griffin) and the banter was ... actually pretty clever? Not that Sandler isn't usually funny (he is, even in dogcrap like That's My Boy and Jack and Jill, stop pretending you don't laugh) but he is rarely what we'd call sharp.
Sandler's Nick Spitz, despite the badge, is a bonafide bozo, a beat cop with horrible aim who once again has failed his detective's exam. He's a legendary miser (buying Allegra over Claritin to save the extra buck) who picks up an Amazon gift card for an anniversary gift. But Audrey Spitz (Aniston), a hairdresser who puts up with Nick's foibles, reminds him once again that they've never taken that trip to Europe he's promised. So they pack for a continental bus tour, the pair bickering as they get on the plane.
Audrey, we learn, is enamored of murder mystery novels, and just so happens to bump into the ripped-from-an-Agatha-Christie-story Charles Cavendish (Luke Evans) in the first-class cabin. "They have bars on planes now?" Nick says, retrieving Audrey from the charming patrician's glow.
Cavendish invites the pair of normies to join him on his uncle's yacht, where they meet a Spanish Formula One driver and a Maharajah. The setting is beyond preposterous. There's a one-eyed General, a Russian bodyguard, and a British film star (Gemma Arterton). As they set sail from Spain to Monaco, Sandler starts laying on more-and-more Woody Allen-ish schtick, worrying about mealtimes. Aniston is stumbling over herself at all the wealth and intrigue, with heirs and mistresses vying for the Quince Family fortune.
Old Man Quince (Terence Stamp) has brought everyone to the ship (well, not the Spitzes) to witness him signing away his money to his newest squeeze (Shiori Kutsuna), but just before it happens, the lights go out, we hear a gunshot, and Stamp has the jewel-encrusted Quince Dagger sticking out of his chest.
French comedian Dany Boone arrives onboard and, weirdly, all the circumstantial evidence points in the direction of the Spitzes. As all the suspects then disembark (why this was allowed was a little unclear) more bodies start piling up. Just when you are sure oh that guy must be the killer, they end up dead — and the Spitzes look even more guilty!
As the Spitzes work to clear their name, they hunt the real killers. Annoyingly, Aniston's character doesn't 100% work. She's meant to be a fish-out-of-water dunce, but she has to snap into being the genius compared to Sandler. It's not enough of a problem to get worked up about, because this whole endeavor is beyond breezy and light, but I suspect that if an actress with better comedy chops were in the role it would land better.
Nevertheless, wackiness ensues, including a funny bed scene between Arterton and the Maharajah, played by Adeel Akhtar doing his spin on Ali G. I probably could have paid super close attention to suss out who the killer was, but that would have required thinking, and it was a long day. This is barely even a real movie and I didn't pay for it, so I felt fine letting it wash over me. Netflix!
Next thing you know there's a chase scene and Adam Sandler is screaming. Gags and stunts! I'm gonna go get something from the fridge, anyone want anything? No, don't hit pause, I can hear it fine.
Much like Nick Spitz, I, too, have a wife who has seen all 5000 episodes of Poirot and loves Murder Under The Sun. This means that in the not-too-distant future, this film will be streaming once more in my living room, because she'll get a kick out of it. I'm not eagerly anticipating it, but I'll probably watch it alongside her. This isn't exactly an explosive endorsement, I know, but considering how much other crap is out there to watch, the fact that I'm even considering sitting through this a second time must be recognized as the victory that it is. Bring on Murder Mystery 2, I see no reason not to.
TV Guide Rating: 3.5/5
Murder Mystery is now on Netflix.