Release: Friday, March 31, 2023 (Netflix)
Written by: James Vanderbilt
Directed by: Jeremy Garelick
Starring: Adam Sandler; Jennifer Aniston; Mark Strong; Mélanie Laurent; Jodie Turner-Smith; John Kani; Adeel Akhtar; Dany Boon
As far as generic entertainment goes, you could do a lot worse than Murder Mystery 2. As far as movies bearing the Happy Madison banner go, you could do a lot more offensive. Neither of which is a firm recommendation, but considering the wobbly, paper-thin premise that barely justified a one-time outing I am happy to be able to recommend this at all.
With the same lukewarm chemistry as before, Adam Sandler and Jennifer Aniston reprise their roles as Nick and Audrey Spitz, a middle-aged married couple with a side hustle in private eyeing who last time out turned Monte Carlo upside down. Four years later the pair have somehow fallen up and are now full-time detectives, but their problem is they lack business. It’s gotten to the point where it’s affecting their marriage. Nick believes it’s a case of getting better marketing; Audrey’s adamant they get their license (after all, she’s read the Dummies Guide to Detecting cover to cover).
An opportunity to spice things up comes in the form of a wedding invitation to a private island, where their old pal Vikram “The Maharajah” (British actor Adeel Akhtar, returning alongside John Kani as Colonel Ulenga and Dany Boon as Inspector
Clouseau Delacroix) is set to marry the wealthy and beautiful Claudette (Mélanie Laurent). But no sooner have Nick and Audrey begun indulging in the fruits of their all-expenses-paid vacation do they find themselves embroiled in another conspiracy — the colorful ceremony concluding with the death of at least one attendee and Vikram being kidnapped and held for $70 million in Paris.
Director Jeremy Garelick provides a couple of goofy sequences depicting our heroes in peril, but as a mystery this is pretty dire. The story (by James Vanderbilt, a writer whose credibility includes David Fincher’s 2007 crime drama Zodiac) lacks any kind of personality or invention, the sequel exchanging a lying husband for a poorly performing one to create some semblance of tension and character depth. Neither the list of suspects nor Mark Strong‘s Connor Miller, a former hostage negotiator for MI6 who turns up to do the job Nick and Audrey should not be doing, are interesting or feel like real people. They’re certainly not characters you want to spend time with beyond these 80 mandated minutes.
While Sandler and Aniston don’t quite fall into that category, they’re not exactly lighting up the screen either as they attempt once again to clear their name while proving their bonafides. Of course, the in-joke all along has been this lack of legitimacy — a couple of amateurs bumbling their way to professional results in a series of events tantamount to a miracle. The actors on their own are likable but as a couple they’re far from convincing, and that’s microcosmic of this franchise-in-the-making.
Though Murder Mystery 2 fails to take its basic concept to any new heights (unless you count the Eiffel Tower) surprisingly little about it truly qualifies as a chore to watch. Then again, just as much about it truly qualifies as worth remembering.
Moral of the Story: These movies aren’t very good but I’d much rather sit through a third round of this kind of harmless wish fulfillment than a second more of Sandler’s desperately unfunny collaborations with the Rob Schneiders and David Spades of Hollywood.
Running Time: 80 mins.
Quoted: “You’ve done hostage negotiations?”
“I’m married to this lady. Everything’s a negotiation. I got it.”
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