Synopsis – A New York cop and his wife go on a European vacation to reinvigorate the spark in their marriage, but end up getting framed and on the run for the death of an elderly billionaire.
My Take – Whether you like him or not, Adam Sandler, till date, remains one of the most successful actors to come out of Hollywood, despite churning out some really questionable films. However, while he continues to reap in the benefits of starring as Dracula in Sony‘s hit animated series, Hotel Transylvania, Sandler hasn’t been making any big screen appearances following the debacle of the disappointing 2015 sci fi comedy, Pixels.
Nevertheless, his contract with Netflix, which started with four features extending on to six, has kept him busy all along. A platform where he has been churning out a slew of pretty variable offerings, ranging from the embarrassing comedy western The Ridiculous 6, the slightly more engaging action-comedy The Do-Over, to slightly more dramatic affairs like Sandy Wexler, The Week Of, and, easily one of the best films he has ever been associated with, The Meyerowitz Stories.
While critics and audiences have generally raised doubts over the quality of Netflix‘s slate of original films, they have been clearly finding a lot of success with these Sandler’s produced film, with this latest, supposedly amassed more than 30 million views in a three-day span, making it the biggest opening weekend for a Netflix original film.
Unsurprising, considering how this one pairs him once again with his longtime friend, Jennifer Aniston, who is as always delightful and of course well versed in the genre. And for being, thankfully, one of his better films of the last decade.
Snappily directed by Kyle Newacheck (Game Over, Man!) with an amusing screenplay by James Vanderbilt (Zodiac, The Amazing Spider-Man) with a run time of ninety-seven minutes, this comedy in the style of an Agatha Christie murder mystery, is an easy watch, and it’s as simple as that.
Sure, this not the kind of film that will change your opinion on Sandler or his style of comedy, but it’s a fun, popcorn entertainment that is unlikely to disappoint if you’re in the mood for something light-hearted to watch.
The story follows Nick Spitz (Adam Sandler), a New York police officer, whose career has stalled as he keeps failing the detective exam. However, his murder mystery novel-obsessed wife Audrey Spitz (Jennifer Aniston), a hairdresser believes he is already a detective, because he is too embarrassed to tell her he has failed the exam.
Feeling that their relationship is in a bit of a rut, Audrey finally questions Nick about his earlier promise of a European trip considering that their fifteen anniversary is up. Freaked out by the sudden confrontation, Nick lies once again about an already planned trip, and the next thing they know the both are on a flight.
Things begin to get exciting in their budgeted vacation when Audrey befriends Viscount Charles Cavendish (Luke Evans), a wealthy billionaire on the plane, and invites the two join him and his family on yacht for a party his elderly, rich uncle, Malcolm Quince (Terence Stamp) and Charles’s former fiancée and Malcolm’s new wife, Suki Nakamura (Shioli Kutsuna) are hosting.
Joining them on the yacht are Grace Bullard (Gemma Arterton), a famous actress, Colonel Utengi (John Kani), Quince’s security adviser, Sergei (Olafur Darri Olafsson), Usagi’s bodyguard, Tobias Quince (David Walliams), Quince’s son, Maharajah Vikram Govindan (Adeel Akhtar) and a formula one racing driver, Juan Carlos Rivera (Luis Gerardo Mendez).
However, things aren’t quite as dreamy as they hoped as Malcolm gets killed on their first night, which is quickly followed by the death of a few other passengers. Things begin to go downhill when Inspector Laurent Delacroix (Dany Boon) takes over the investigation, and points out everybody else on the boat is somehow related to Quince, and the fact that the Spitzes aren’t makes them the prime suspects. As a result, the couple now must run for their lives, while trying to solve the murder mystery and prove their innocence.
This film is exactly what one would expect and, as long as you have no unreasonable expectations, it will give you a chuckle without taxing the brain. Compared to his usual fare though, this Kyle Newacheck film is a fun watching experience that for the most parts avoids much of the issues that normally affect Sandler comedies. Most importantly the lack of his regular friends and family motif that has become a form of a virus in his filmography.
If you’ve seen the trailer, then you probably realized that the premise of the film draws heavily on Agatha Christie’s Murder on the Orient Express – and this is not something which the film tries to hide as there are several direct nods to that story.
For example, at one point, Nick puts forth the classic 3 basic motives for murder. As they try to uncover the identity of the killer, they put together the three motives of money, revenge and love.
What makes this stand out though is that it’s a thoroughly enjoyable mystery story where suspects and characters don’t always play out as you expect and it leaves you guessing the intentions of everybody. Whereas Christie’s work is a much more dramatic and tense affair, this script, written by James Vanderbilt, throws many hilarious situations into the mix and gives you plenty of moments to laugh along the way.
However, you’re here for an Adam Sandler vehicle with the basic intention to make you laugh. And the humor behind the film is pretty much what you expect from a Sandler film, as it’s at times clichéd with over the top characters and cheesy dialogue. Playing the limited expression and the self-aware card with a pretty decent conviction.
The film also does touch on more gritty and real-life reflections of marriage and family that are a core to Sandler’s film but are executed here to a far greater extent. Although, it never comes in the way of the basic conviction of comedy. Things also wrap up fairly conveniently, but that’s arguably part of the film’s appeal.
No, this is not the best comedy around or not a message film that will answer questions in life, though it tries to answer the question what a maharaja is. As with any paperback mystery read, like those Audrey loves, anyone cracking into a Sandler-Netflix film is likely looking for something with a neat conclusion. This film has just that, while also managing to poke enough fun at the genre to feel at least a little fresh. And for a Netflix film to be watched in the comfort of one’s home, it makes an excellent choice for an evening film.
As for the film’s leads, Adam Sandler and Jennifer Aniston continue to make a good couple. Sandler does not push for any creative heights as the every-man Nick, and neither does Aniston stray far from her well-worn Rachel-esque persona to be Audrey. On top of bouncing well off of each other, the fact that they’re supposed to be the most normal characters in the room means they don’t have to rely on sloppy bits and punch-up jokes to maintain viewer interest.
They both play it all pretty naturally with a charming and loving married couple bickering energy throughout, but the balance of the ensemble which includes the likes of Luke Evans, Gemma Arterton, David Walliams, Ólafur Darri Ólafsson, John Kani, Shioli Kutsuna, Luis Gerardo Mendez and Terrance Stamp, who unfortunately don’t have a hell of a lot to do here, than play stereotypes. However, Adeel Akhtar and Dany Boon manage to standout in their comic roles. On the whole, ‘Murder Mystery’ is a funny and light comedy mystery film that manages to be entertaining and engaging enough for its run time.
Directed – Kyle Newacheck
Rated – PG13
Run Time – 97 minutes