One of the greatest compliments I can give “Murder Mystery” is that it is considerably more tolerable than most of the dreck Adam Sandler churns out. That may not sound flattering (and to be honest it isn’t), but when you’ve grown accustomed to Sandler films being insufferable slogs, ‘tolerable’ is a pretty big step in the right direction.
Just to be clear, that doesn’t mean “Murder Mystery” is a good movie. It features many of the same problems that plague most of Sandler’s stuff. It just happens to be slightly less offensive to your intelligence and ever so slightly amusing (on occasions) – just enough to keep you with it until the end.
Sandler plays Nick Spitz, a New York police officer who can’t pass his detective exam. Jennifer Aniston plays his wife Audrey, a hairdresser who after 15 years is still waiting on her husband to fulfill his promise of a honeymoon in Europe. On their anniversary Nick surprises Audrey (not by choice) by telling her he has booked their long-awaited trip.
You have to be impressed with Sandler’s ability to get together with a bunch of friends, travel to beautiful locations, and have production companies pay for the whole thing all under the guise of making a movie. Here Italy is the vacation spot…errr shooting location of choice. On their flight Nick and Audrey meet Charles Cavendish (Luke Evans), a suave and debonair aristocrat who invites them to join him on his family’s yacht to celebrate his billionaire uncle’s upcoming wedding.
But what starts as hobnobbing with the rich and famous turns into a Eurotrip filled with (you guessed it) murder, betrayal, and an assortment of the prime suspects – the fiance, a jealous son, a scorned lover, a movie star, a Maharajah, a race car driver, a military Colonel and his Russian bodyguard. Shenanigans ensue and in classic whodunnit style the possible killers are mysteriously killed off one-by-one. And wouldn’t you know it, it’s the Spitzes who find themselves being framed for the murders.
“Murder Mystery” doesn’t have a lot to offer but at least the cast is having a good time. The row of suspects featuring Evans, Gemma Arterton, Luis Gerardo Méndez, Adeel Akhtar, Shiori Kutsuna, John Kani, and Ólafur Darri Ólafsson seem to be enjoying themselves. And something can be said for the natural and seemingly effortless chemistry between Sandler and Aniston.
Unfortunately the fun they’re having doesn’t exactly carry over to us. The screenplay was written by James Vanderbilt, the same guy who wrote 2007’s fantastic “Zodiac”. He and director Kyle Newacheck wisely keep things moving at a quick and snappy pace. It’s a good idea because if you slow down and give the story too much thought, it’s pretty easy to check out of it.
While “Murder Mystery” is a decent step up from what Adam Sandler has become known for, it still falls short of being what could be called a genuinely funny movie. It’s not fresh enough to be called original and not smart enough to be called a parody. It’s the kind of movie that you don’t necessarily have to labor through, but it will be completely forgotten by the end of the day.
VERDICT – 2 STARS