To quote the evil Noah Cross chinatown, “Politicians, ugly buildings and whores all become respectable if they last long enough.” The same can be said Adam Sandlerwhich was a piñata for critics for years as a result of mindless comedies like Bill Madison And Happy Gilmore. Now he is an acclaimed actor, his name floated by Oscar prognosticators for such great performances as the one he gave Uncut gems And Rush. He has even joined such illustrious comedic talents as Richard Pryor and George Carlin in winning the Mark Twain Prize.
But Sandler ultimately has to be Sandler, and that huge deal with Netflix has to be honored. Hence the arrival of Murder Mystery 2the sequel to the critically acclaimed 2019 comedy starring Jennifer Aniston turned streamer biggest hit that year. This film brings back the goofy, doofus Sandler that audiences can’t seem to get enough of in the kind of harmlessly mindless comedic vehicle that fits really well with Chinese takeout or pizza on a Saturday night. It’s also user-friendly enough to clock in within an hour and a half, as opposed to the seemingly endless ones The ridiculous 6 at two o’clock or the painful Sandy Wexler at 130 minutes.
Murder mystery 2
It comes down to
Nick and Nora are not.
The first film, about a New York City cop and his wife, Nick and Audrey Spitz (their name refers to predictable jokes), who solve an Agatha Christie-style murder mystery while on a European vacation, was a pleasant distraction, thanks in large part to the chemistry of his co-stars, old friends who first teamed up in 2011’s Just get on with it. Sandler and Aniston have decades of comic book experience together, and they definitely know how to land a throwaway line or some physical shtick.
Those trappings have been inexplicably downplayed for this episode, which seems determined to outshine its predecessor, not in laughs, but rather in action sequences. No one expects these two artists to try to outdo Keanu Reeves John Wick or Charlize Theron’s Atomic blond character (Theron is one of the executive producers on this movie), but here they’re battling bad guys in a van that speeds precariously through the Parisian streets and dangles from the Eiffel Tower. As this movie makes painfully clear, it’s hard to deliver one-liners while dodging bullets or running like a man possessed.
The action sequences are expertly staged (although it’s a shame one that takes place at the Arc de Triomphe is seen just after the spectacular car chase there in John Wick: Chapter 4), but seem completely unnecessary. For Sandler’s fans, it’s enough to watch him eat away an entire block of cheese, even while pursuing a criminal or making sardonic, self-deprecating asides that seem just casual enough to potentially be improvised.
The sequel opens with a quick recap of its predecessor before devolving into a bizarrely rushed episode where the Spitzes launch a private detective agency that makes it seem like we missed an episode. Not long after, they are invited to the wedding of the Maharaja (Adeel Akhtar), their very wealthy friend from the previous film, on his private tropical island. The other guests include his beautiful French fiancé Claudette (Mélanie Laurent); her best friend, Countess Sekou (Jodie Turner-Smith), who was previously betrothed to the Maharaja; the Countess’s assistant, Imani (Zurin Vallanueava); the Maharaja’s philanthropist sister, Saira (Kuhoo Verma); the horny Francisco (Enrique Arce), who beats every woman who moves; and Namibian Colonel Ulenga (John Kani), who not only previously lost a hand and an eye, but also the rest of his arm since the first film.
Needless to say, almost all of them end up as suspects when the Maharaja is kidnapped, with a $50 million ransom demand. To help solve the crime – you’ll understand when you see the movie – an ultra-macho M16 hostage negotiator (Mark Strong, sending in his Mark Strong thing) who literally wrote the detective guide the Spitzes studied swims around their desk.
Finally, the trail leads to Paris, as Sandler wanted to treat his friends and family to yet another luxurious expense-free vacation. There they encounter the Clouseau-esque Inspector Delacroix (Dany Boon) again, whose main character trait is his ability to blow perfect smoke rings. (These are the jokes, folks.)
The screenplay by James Vanderbilt – who previously demonstrated his non-comedy bona fides with films like Zodiac, White House down And Independence Day: Revival — leans heavily on forced jokes and physical slapstick that usually don’t land unless you find things like dental floss business cards inherently funny. The only real amusement comes from Sandler and Aniston’s casual asides, with the latter also delivering perfectly calibrated slow responses that are all too often overshadowed by the over-produced chaos around them.
Arriving on the heels of Netflix’s much better Agatha Christie broadcast Glass onion, Murder mystery 2 will nevertheless be another hit for the streamer. You just hope that by the next episode they focus a little less on the production values and a lot more on the comedy.
Production companies: Happy Madison, Echo Films, Endgame Entertainment, Vison Films, Denver & Delilah
Cast: Adam Sandler, Jennifer Aniston, Mark Strong, Melanie Laurent, Jodie Turner-Smith, John Kani, Kuhoo Verma, Dany Boon, Adeel Akhtar, Enrique Arce, Zurin Villanueva
Directed by: Jeremy Garelick
Screenwriter: James Vanderbilt
Producers: Adam Sandler, Jennifer Aniston, Tripp Vinson, James D. Stern, James Vanderbilt, AJ Dix, Allen Covert
Executive Producers: Barry Bernardi, Kevin Grady, Julie Goldstein, Lucas Smith, Beau Flynn, Charlize Theron, Beth Kono, Tim Herlihy, Kyle Newacheck
Director of Photography: Bojan Bazelli
Production Designer: Perry Andelin Blake
Editors: Tom Costain, Brian Robinson
Costume Designer: Debra McGuire
Composer: Rupert Gregson-Williams
Casting: Laura Rosenthal, Maribeth Fox
Rated PG-13, 1 hour and 30 minutes