It's fairly difficult to summon any enthusiasm for an Adam Sander film when Sandler himself seemingly can't be bothered to do more than absolute minimum in exchange for a very generous paycheck. The Meyerowitz Stories notwithstanding, the bulk of Sander's recent efforts have smacked of laziness, leadenness, and sheer awfulness. Murder Mystery, the latest stemming from his eight-movie deal with Netflix, then comes as a pleasant surprise. Whilst by no means a sterling piece of work, it is bright, nimble and satisfying.
Sandler plays Nick Spitz, a New York police officer who has just failed his detective exam. He also seems to be failing Audrey (Jennifer Aniston), his hairdresser wife of 15 years who is still waiting for that European trip that he promised her when they were first married. When she finally confronts him about this, he pretends that he'd been planning it all along in time for their anniversary and quickly books a budget European tour. During the plane ride, Audrey encounters the dashing billionaire Charles Cavendish (Luke Evans), who invites her and Nick aboard his family's yacht to celebrate the marriage of his former fiancee Suzi (Shiori Kutsuna) to his uncle Malcolm (Terence Stamp).
Once there, Nick and Audrey find themselves part of a real-life murder mystery that seems taken from one of the mystery novels that Audrey devours. Malcolm is killed after announcing that he's left all of his money to Suzi. So who could have done it? Perhaps Cavendish himself as revenge for being dumped? What about Malcolm's son Tobias (David Walliams), glamorous movie star Grace Ballard (Gemma Arterton), homeboy maharaja Vikram (Adeel Akhtar), African military man (John Kani), or Formula One race driver Juan Carlos Rivera (Luis Gerardo Mendez), all of whom may have their reasons for wanting Malcolm dead. Even Nick and Audrey are thrown into the pool of suspects by Inspector Laurent Delacroix (Dany Boon), especially when more people end up dead.
Though this spoof of Agatha Christie murder mysteries doesn't exactly brim with memorable scenes or lines of dialogue, there's something in its old-fashioned manner that appeals. Everyone, even Sandler on occasion, mines the silliness for all it's worth and director Kyle Newacheck maintains a nice, breezy pace. Especially enjoyable is how, though they are well and truly involved in the events, Nick and Audrey treat the whole thing like it's a show that's being staged for them to the point where Audrey in particular is commenting on everything that's happening. Murder Mystery isn't exactly a stretch for either Sandler or Aniston, and one doubts this will be remembered in any top 10 list, but it's mindless entertainment of the best kind.
Directed by: Kyle Newacheck
Written by: James Vanderbilt
Starring: Adam Sandler, Jennifer Aniston, Luke Evans, Terence Stamp, Gemma Arteron, Dany Boon, John Kani, Adeel Akhtar, Ólafur Darri Ólafsson, Luis Gerardo Mendez, David Walliams, Shiori Kutsuna