So, after Murder Mystery “allegedly” became one of Netflix’s most streamed original films, I figured that I would check it out. Yes, I know – it’s an Adam Sandler PG-13 comedy. However, I have actually enjoyed many of Mr. Sandler’s previous films – Mr. Deeds, Happy Gilmore, Billy Madison, 50 First Dates and even his last collaboration with Jennifer Aniston, Just Go With It, are all (in my opinion) good, silly fun and have enough chuckles to make them worth a watch if that is what you are in the mood for.
I haven’t been as into Adam Sandler’s recent Netflix projects, though I did enjoy his collaboration with David Spade in The Do-Over and the Happy Madison produced True Memoirs of an International Assassin was surprisingly watchable (I’m not a Kevin James fan, but that film knew what it was and played to his strengths, so I found myself enjoying what it had to offer)
And now we have Murder Mystery, a film about a man and his wife who finally take their much-delayed honeymoon, but find themselves framed for the murder of an elderly billionaire.
That’s pretty straightforward, which is a good sign: Adam Sandler films tend to be much better when they are focused on one simple idea instead of trying to tackle multiple subplots or trying to do too much with an SNL sketch idea that then falls apart (don’t get me started on Jack & Jill…)
So, how did Netflix’s big feature hold up?
We start out with an exposition dump in which Adam Sandler and his cop friend (Erik Griffin from Workaholics) chat about how Adam Sandler failed his detective’s exam… again and now has to lie to his wife. Yeah, it’s a cliche and on-the-nose way to start, but Erik Griffin and Adam Sandler have chemistry and their back-and-forth made me chuckle. Plus, Sandler does his best with slouched shoulders and a mustache that looks like he stole it from the nearest fire station.
We then go across town to find Jennifer Aniston who works as a hairstylist and who is complaining about Adam Sandler because he’s a bad husband. This is also a cliche and boring scene, but we are filled in on one key piece of information: Sandler never took her on the trip to Europe that he promised her 15 years ago.
Can you guess what is going to happen next?
Yup, after a few more minutes and several hijinks they get on a plane to travel to Europe. Oh, and before that we get a scene where Adam Sandler catches a kid shoplifting at a convenience store, I guess to show that he is a good detective… except he’s not really, the kid has an entire backpack full of energy drinks and snacks that he was stealing and he’s the worst criminal ever because instead of leaving after he took everything, he just kind of stands there and waits to be caught by Adam Sandler.
Up to this point, the characters have been really annoying and just bicker back-and-forth, not in the fun, playful way, but in a bitter, unpleasant way that isn’t funny and doesn’t endear the characters to their audience.
It reminded me of this scene in Deadpool – You look like an avocado had sex with another, more disgusting avocado. And not gently. Like, it was hate-fucking. There was something wrong with the relationship and that was the only catharsis that they could find without violence.
At one point during their flight, Jennifer Aniston sneaks up to first class because Adam Sandler is snoring loudly next to her and meets Luke Evans, who plays the heir of a billionaire that hits on Jennifer Aniston and is very clearly the bad guy. I mean, they cast Luke Evans, of course he is the bad guy… in fact, has Luke Evans ever played a good guy?
What I did like, however, is that they make a mention of the fact that he is clearly the bad guy (though it is a very heavy-handed meta-reference, at least they weren’t pretending to be smarter than the audience)
My main issue here is that the film is titled Murder Mystery and there is no real mystery to be found anywhere. It is clear from the beginning what is going to happen and that our heroes are going to get the happy ending that they do not deserve and I didn’t care about the billionaire or his family/friends/other people on the yacht.
Oh, yeah, and during their brief conversation, Luke Evans invites Jennifer Aniston to party on his yacht for the weekend… and Adam Sandler tags along because his company produced the movie.
Once on the yacht, we meet a cast of characters who I think are meant to be our suspects. I don’t remember any of them because they are not important, except for the one man who was dressed like an army colonel – I mainly remember him because he has a fake hand and Adam Sandler makes (several) jokes about him also having lost “his dick” in the war and being able to detach it whenever he wants. This is an ongoing joke throughout the film and, if that sounded unfunny when you read it, it is even worse watching it.
We finally meet the old billionaire everyone has been talking about at about 32 minutes in who shows up briefly and states that he is cutting literally everyone out of his will except for his new, young wife who he is leaving all of his fortune to.
The lights go out right before the billionaire can sign his new will (obviously he had not already signed the will before calling all of his potential heirs to the yacht because… reasons) and he is murdered.
I have to say, I laughed at the scene after the billionaire is killed when the colonel character keeps pulling the knife out of the dead body when someone asks about it and then sticking it back in the dead guy when someone tells him put the murder weapon back.
Then, they stop at Monaco and get off of the yacht, which I thought was a huge missed opportunity to keep the film contained to the yacht and reduce the budget, but for some reason Adam Sandler and Jennifer Aniston are accused of the murder and have to figure out who the real killer is before they are arrested and go down for a murder that they did not commit.
Now, I have to admit, I had checked out of this film long before the 41 minute mark where this happens, but I just could not bring myself to care about any of these characters or this story at this point.
Yes, the plot is pretty basic, but let’s be honest: you don’t typically watch an Adam Sandler movie for the plot, you watch it for the turn-your-brain-off humor, so how does that hold up?
Well, humor is very subjective (as we have talked about before) and what may be funny to me might not be funny to you and vice-versa, but this one didn’t have the well-meaning humor or earnestness of a Mr. Deeds or Billy Madison and I hardly chuckled while watching this. Plus, the humor and interaction between characters felt more mean-spirited and nagging than many of Sandler’s other pieces.
Now, I wasn’t expecting the next great comedy or a mind-bending murder mystery here, but I would have liked it more if it felt like anyone involved in the production was actually trying to make something memorable or unique in any way.
That may sound harsh, but Murder Mystery failed to meet my already low expectations and I can’t give this one a recommendation – I would say SKIP IT and watch Mr. Deeds, Billy Madison, Happy Gilmore, Just Go With It or pretty much any of Adam Sandler’s other features… except Jack & Jill… never Jack & Jill… even war criminals should not be subjected to that.
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