Adam Sandler is a lucky guy. The actor had signed his first four-film deal with Netflix in 2014, followed by an identical arrangement in 2017. Each Sandler-Netflix release has been disappointing, with the western comedy ‘The Ridiculous 6’ one of the rare films to hold an approval rating of 0% on the review aggregator, Rotten Tomatoes.
Kyle Newacheck’s ‘Murder Mystery’, an unimaginatively titled mystery comedy, is the latest Sandler film on Netflix. The actor has been paired opposite Jennifer Aniston, whose comic timing is impeccable at its best. Numerous misadventures notwithstanding, Sandler, too, has featured in gut-busting comedies in the past. The lead pair is, therefore, a major reason why many Netflix subscribers might be optimistic about the film. Such hopeful viewers won't be completely disappointed, although Murder Mystery falls way short of being a laughter-a-minute 'suspense' film it could have been,
The story is about Nick and Audrey Spitz (Sandler and Aniston, respectively), an American couple leading uneventful lives in New York. Nick is a bored and frustrated beat cop, who has been lying to his wife that he has been promoted to the rank of a detective. Audrey, a hairdresser, is hooked to mystery novels, which is part of the reason why the film is called Murder Mystery.
Fifteen years after marriage, Nick and Audrey go on a honeymoon to Europe. The wife meets a mysterious viscount on the aeroplane, and the couple end up on a billionaire’s yacht. That’s where the seeds of a real murder mystery are sown. The elderly billionaire named Malcolm Quince (Terence Stamp) is murdered when he is making an important announcement related to the inheritance of his wealth. His murder is followed by another, and then, another. The American couple turn into prime suspects, a situation they must get out of.
Murder Mystery has an assortment of characters. Aboard the yacht are the viscount (Luke Evans), an actress (Gemma Arterton), a one-eyed Colonel (John Kani), a Maharaja (Adeel Akhtar), a racing car driver (Luis Gerardo Mendez), and a handful of other individuals. Written by James Vanderbilt, the story also has an inspector (Dany Boon), an unimpressive, half-baked character that doesn’t feature in any interesting sequence worth writing home about.
Asian stereotypes and Hollywood are never far apart. The Maharaja from Mumbai is neither funny nor remotely convincing. As the character goes through the motions in the film, one wonders why it was created in the first place.
Murder Mystery does have its share of funny moments though. After the billionaire is murdered, some characters make an attempt to bring him back to life. Standing in a corner with his wife, a straight-faced Nick says: “I don’t think he is revivable.” That moment makes the viewer smile, just like a few crisply written others.
The film has some reasonably likeable performances, led by Aniston and Sandler. Both actors seem to have liked the script, which, ironically, doesn't rise above mediocrity for the most part. Arterton, Evans and Olafur Darri Olafsson in his brief appearance as the colonel’s physically imposing bodyguard are good during their moments under the sun.
Murder Mystery combines two genres: mystery and comedy. The writer Vanderbilt’s big failure is his inability to create more suspense, which was possible considering the film has a bunch of characters with possible motives for killing a billionaire. What disappoints the most, however, is the predictable climax.
Fans of Sandler and Aniston, however, are likely to enjoy Murder Mystery. Also, the film won’t get a 0% rating on Rotten Tomatoes – as The Ridiculous 6 did.