Nick Spitz (Adam Sandler) is a NYC cop who has, once again, failed his detective exam. Ashamed, he lies to his wife of 15 years Audrey (Jennifer Aniston) and pretends to be a detective. The lies continue when Audrey confronts him about the European honeymoon he promised on their wedding day that still hasn’t come… and he buys last minute plane tickets for them pretending that was her gift all along. During the flight, Audrey sneaks into the first class bar where she meets Charles Cavendish (Luke Evans) – a handsome, charming millionaire who invites the Spitzes to accompany him on his family yacht to “celebrate” the marriage of his ex-fiancée (Shioli Kutsuna) to his billionaire uncle (Terence Stamp).
On the yacht, they meet an interesting cast of characters including an actress Nick’s infatuated with (Gemma Arterton), a one-eyed Colonel (John Kani), a millennial Maharajah (Adeel Akhtar), a huge bodyguard (Olafur Darri Olafsson) and a formula 1 racecar driver who doesn’t speak any English beyond racing terms (Luis Gerardo Mendez). Not long after their arrival, the billionaire uncle is murdered, followed by the faked suicide of his son who was the prime suspect.
Everyone thinks “The Americans” – aka the Spitzes – are the murderers as the only ones who don’t belong on the ship. Hi-jinks ensue as Nick and Audrey try to solve the murder while clearing their own name… but all the other suspects start dying in ways that implicate the Spitzes further and put them in the crosshairs of a French Inspector (Dany Boon).
Murder Mystery is the latest collaboration between Netflix and Adam Sandler’s Happy Madison Productions. It’s written by James Vanderbilt (Independence Day: Resurgence, White House Down, The Amazing Spider-Man) and directed by Kyle Newacheck (The Package, Game Over Man!, and the TV series Workaholics).
Given the horrible track record of the previous handful of productions Sandler has done for Netflix, I honestly wasn’t expecting much with this one. Admittedly, I haven’t seen the other ventures myself yet… but I’ve heard the rumors and steered clear. This one didn’t sound so bad when I saw the trailer, so I gave it a try. To my surprise, I’m actually glad I did!
While Murder Mystery isn’t a modern Sandler classic like Happy Gilmore or Billy Madison (the two movies his production company borrows its name from), it’s still an enjoyable 97-minute adventure comedy. How much adventure? How much comedy? Believe it or not, I’d put this on par with the 1985 murder comedy classic Clue. Yeah, I said it.
There are a few failed jokes scattered about, but overall there’s a ton of laugh out loud moments that caught me off guard. Adam Sandler and Jennifer Anniston have some great chemistry and their comedic timing is spot on (no surprise, given they previously appeared together in 2011’s Just Go With It). The rest of the cast provides their own laughs as well, fitting the caricatures they each play. The actual murder mystery in Murder Mystery also plays out well. There are plenty of twists and turns along the way to keep the audience guessing as much as the Spitzes and Inspector De La Croix. Misdirection is the key to this story, and the writer handled it well.
Murder Mystery shines most when it relies on the banter between Sandler and Anniston, but there’s plenty of fun across the board here. This is a great way to spend an evening just relaxing and unwinding, especially if you’re growing weary of superheroes and explosions stealing every screen. Okay, there is a truly great high-speed car chase near the climax of the film that’s just as thrilling as it is amusing, but that’s an outlier. Even if the idea of watching a Sandler movie isn’t high on your list, give this one a chance and you’ll be pleasantly surprised – like I was!