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Over the last four years Adam Sandler has nestled comfortably into his home on Netflix, but while there have been occasional bright spots in the ongoing filmmaker/distributor relationship - like The Myerowitz Stories and Sandler's return to live stage performance with 100% Fresh - the output has largely been lackluster. This includes releases like The Ridiculous 6 and Sandy Wexler, which provide nothing but more of the same old Sandler shtick that we've come to expect.
Now we can, unfortunately, add his latest movie, Kyle Newacheck and Anne Fletcher's Murder Mystery, to the list of disappointments. The film, which co-stars Jennifer Aniston, is neither enjoyable as a comedy nor engaging as a mystery. Once again, if you've seen an Adam Sandler movie anytime this century, you know what you're getting, and it's not interesting or funny.
Nick and Audrey Spitz (Adam Sandler and Jennifer Aniston) have been married for 15 years, and, like with many couples (especially in the movies) the spark has largely left the relationship. Audrey is a hairdresser with a love of mystery novels. Nick is an NYPD cop who has failed his detective's exam multiple times. But Nick doesn't want to admit his failure, and so he's been lying to Audrey.
Put on the spot by his wife because of this, Nick plans an impromptu anniversary vacation to Europe, where the couple meet and become friends with Charles Cavendish (Luke Evans) - who invites them to join him on the yacht of his rich and newly married uncle (Terrance Stamp). When the uncle is killed just before signing a new will, Nick and Audrey are immediately suspected, as they are the outsiders of the group, but literally everybody has a motive, and so the "detective" and his mystery novel loving wife try to clear their own names by figuring out who is truly guilty.
As a premise, that's not a bad one. "Murder on the Orient Express, except the detective is a moron" would be a reasonably good place to start for a comedy. It worked for Peter Sellers, but of course, Adam Sandler is no Peter Sellers. The plot also decides against limiting the story to the boat, instead letting the story bounce around Europe, which at least allows for some nice visuals.
While the title promises a murder mystery, leading to expectations of characters conducting investigations, discovering clues, and following them to logical conclusions, what we get instead is Sandler and Aniston stumbling through the script and having clues dropped in front of them whenever the plot requires it. We do get a classic murder mystery finale, but one that feels entirely out of place considering what came before it.
The fact that Murder Mystery isn't much of a murder mystery would be easily overlooked if it was at least a funny comedy, but it's not. I wish there was more to say on the subject, but there just isn't. The jokes don't land. They're not delivered with any energy whatever. It's like everybody knows the movie isn't worth the effort. Most of Sandler and Aniston's material is of the "frustrated spouse sniping at the significant other" variety. It lasts for basically the entire movie and it gets old inside of 10 minutes.
The various supporting characters could have been potentially interesting, but we don't get enough time with any of them. This harms the comedy, as nobody is given enough time to be particularly funny, but it also harms the mystery as we don't get to know most of the suspects well enough to care who did it.
Most of the detective story cliches can be forgiven, at least at the outset, because the movie is supposed to be having fun with those cliches. You've got the gold digging mistress, the overlooked child, the sexpot actress, the mysterious foreign dignitary, the wealthy-and-obviously-evil-guy-who-is so-obviously-the-villain-that-he's-obviously-not-the-villain.
Starting out with these cliches would be fine if any of them went anywhere, if anything new and different were done with them, but they all play out more or less as expected. While I wouldn't go so far as to call the solution to it all entirely predictable, that;s only because a) the solution is dumb and doesn't actually hold up when you think about it, and b) because you're likely to stop caring before you get to the end.
The only real mystery in Murder Mystery is the reason why Netflix keep making these movies - but even that has an easy solve: Clearly subscribers watch them in droves. On a certain level, I get it - if you're already paying for Netflix, why the hell not? Still, there's also everything else to choose from on the service, and definitely many better things you could be doing with your time in general.