‘Murder Mystery 2’ Is Adam Sandler Crap Comedy at Its Worst

·6 min read
Photo Illustration by Luis G. Rendon/The Daily Beast/Netflix
Photo Illustration by Luis G. Rendon/The Daily Beast/Netflix

For his Saturday Night Live work, Billy Madison, and Happy Gilmore alone, Adam Sandler deservedly earned the Mark Twain Prize for American Humor that he recently received from the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. Nonetheless, the comedian’s cinematic oeuvre boasts far fewer triumphs than disasters, and almost none are drearier than Murder Mystery, a 2019 dud with Jennifer Aniston about a New York couple embroiled in an international homicide case that somehow ranked as Netflix’s most-watched 2019 feature.

A sub-Agatha Christie affair that was primarily notable for its flat tone, lethargic plotting, and leads’ lack of comic chemistry, it proved a whodunit that was so unfunny its only real mystery involved figuring out where the filmmakers expected viewers to laugh.

That conundrum continues in Murder Mystery 2 (which premieres March 31), a follow-up that, as with so many Sandler efforts, feels like a ritzy vacation for its stars masquerading as a legitimate movie. Written once again by James Vanderbilt, it dispenses about as many good jokes as its predecessor—which is to say, none. This time, there’s a heightened focus on large-scale action set pieces that take place on a tropical island and throughout Paris, from the Palais Garnier and the Eiffel Tower to the Arc de Triomphe.

At least one of those hits its mark: a skirmish in the back of a van racing through the city’s streets at night that finds Sandler and Aniston temporarily getting into a manic-harried-wisecracking groove. The rest, however, is dismally lazy nonsense whose only redeeming element is that its credits roll a good 10 minutes before the conclusion of its stated runtime.

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After a brief recap of the prior film that’s as sitcom-y as everything that follows, Murder Mystery 2 reunites us with Nick (Sandler) and Audrey Spitz (Aniston), who in the wake of their last murder-solving outing have set aside their careers—he an NYPD officer who was too inept to become a detective; she a hairdresser—to launch a private investigation business.

As before, Nick and Audrey are cast in a Nick and Nora Charles mold, albeit without any of that iconic pair’s wit, style, or personality. Nick is a prototypical Sandler schlub whose only defining characteristics are that he’s a lousy marksman and has a fondness for eating, and Audrey is a frantic sleuth who likes to wear beautiful dresses and bicker with her husband, even though they’re both also constantly expressing their affection for one another.

Nick and Audrey’s latest adventure begins when they’re invited to the wedding of the Maharajah (Adeel Akhtar), who still talks like an irritating doofus raised on hip-hop, and who now owns a private island where he’s hosting his nuptials to Claudette (Mélanie Laurent). The Maharajah informs his friends that he met Claudette at a Parisian watch shop, but, as is quickly revealed, she’s also the former university roommate and best friend of Countess Sekou (Jodie Turner-Smith), the Maharajah’s ex-fiancé.

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This sort of haphazard storytelling is par for the course in Murder Mystery 2, which rounds out its collection of suspects with the groom’s sister Saira (Kuhoo Verma), soccer icon-turned-Maharajah business colleague Francisco (Enrique Arce), and Colonel Ulenga (John Kani), who was missing a hand in the first film but, this time around, is missing his entire arm!

Prepare to roll your eyes at gags of that caliber throughout Murder Mystery 2, whose big idea is to again have Nick and Audrey be pinned for homicide once the Maharajah is kidnapped by ransom-demanding villains and his bodyguard is murdered, thus interrupting a tepid Bollywood-style wedding showstopper.

Repeating tired bits is central to these proceedings, be it regarding Nick’s reputation as a terrible shot, or Audrey winding up behind the wheel of an expensive sports car. Still, those aren’t worse than the original banter peddled by the film, as when Nick states that he can handle a phone call with the kidnappers because he’s been married to Audrey for years and, with her, “everything’s a negotiation,” or when a helicopter pilot (Carlos Ponce) keeps mispronouncing their last name Spitz as "Shitz.”

Mark Strong participates as the super-skilled crisis management expert who wrote the Detective 101 book that Audrey pesters Nick to read, and Dany Boon reprises his role as French Inspector Delacroix, who remains an idiotic mechanism by which the series tries to make Nick and Audrey appear guilty. Neither is given a single worthwhile thing to do, nor are Laurent, Turner-Smith or Kani; the best that can be said about them is that they don’t seem to have unduly strained themselves while collecting this easy paycheck.

Eventually, some of their characters are also killed by the shadowy fiend, who then frames Nick and Audrey for the crimes. Yet Murder Mystery 2 stages these developments with such lifelessness—a twist involving a deep-fake video is handled with shocking sloppiness, which can also be said about Tony Goldwyn’s prologue cameo—that the only thing elicited by these shenanigans is depression from watching talented people slum their way through misbegotten material.

Sandler and Aniston’s rapport is comfortable but inert; whether squabbling or expressing their love, they’re an unconvincing and grating duo. Murder Mystery 2’s main problem, however, is a script that’s devoid of inspired ideas or amusing one-liners. A lavish Sandler venture was never going to match the high-wire excitement of a Mission: Impossible, but there’s no excusing the film’s wholesale absence of imagination.

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Director Jeremy Garelick puts Netflix’s money on the screen; despite some chintzy CGI environmental effects, he ably spotlights his sumptuous global locales as well as crashes cars through buildings and blows up vehicles with requisite big-budget flair. Unfortunately, doing so apparently meant that there was no time left to concoct a single humorous back-and-forth.

Sandler was wise in 2014 to hitch his wagon to Netflix, considering that his increasingly slapdash Happy Madison productions are far more appealing as living-room distractions than as night-out entertainments. Nonetheless, the fact that he’s soon reteaming with Josh and Benny Safdie is welcome news, not only because their prior collaboration, Uncut Gems, was such a winner, but because it means that the star will be temporarily prevented from making more dreck like this.

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