t’s more than likely the names Adam Sandler and Agatha Christie haven’t shown up in a sentence together too often. And though Sandler’s latest Netflix venture Murder Mystery won’t draw any direct comparisons to The Mysterious Affair at Stylesanytime soon, you can squint and cock your head sideways and almost kinda see that’s what he was going for.
The latest product of the goofball actor’s re-upped deal with the streaming service, Mystery continues Sandler’s envious steak of movies that pair him with a beautiful actress and take place in some exotic, posh locale. This go-round it’s re-teaming with Just Go With It co-star Jennifer Aniston in the south of France. Because why not?
Sandler plays resident schlub Nick Spitz, an NYPD officer trying to work his way up to detective, though he’s failed the exam three times. Naturally he can’t tell the truth to his hapless wife Audrey (Aniston), because why would she stay with him any longer? Come to think of it, why is she with him in the first place?
As their 15th anniversary approaches, he picks out a nice Amazon gift card for her, but before he can even wrap it, she’s expressing her frustration at his never following through on his promise to whisk her off to Europe one of these days. He, naturally, shoots from the hip and explains that, dang it, she ruined the surprise—it’s what he’d planned all along.
So off they go, giving Audrey the chance to meet the dashing (and sinister?) Brit Charles Cavendish (Luke Evans) on the flight. Instantly taken by her, he invites the couple to spend the weekend on the luxury yacht owned by his ultra-rich uncle Malcolm (Terence Stamp). Malcolm has gathered the family together to reveal that he has redrafted his will to leave his entire estate to his barely-legal bride-to-be Suzi (Shioli Katsuna), who is actually Cavendish’s ex-fiancée—all of which perfectly sets the stage for… MURRR-DERRR!
Nick and Audrey, being the outsider Americans in the scenario, naturally draw immediate suspicion, but since they’re on vacation and have nothing else to do, the couple takes it upon themselves to figure out the real culprit. The requisite cast of characters is all in place, including (oddly enough) an African warlord (John Kani), a Russian thug (Ólafur Darri Ólafsson), a maharaja (Adeel Akhtar), and a glamorous actress (Gemma Arterton), and everyone has his or her own reason to see Malcolm meet his maker.
There’s no denying the fact that Murder Mystery is perfectly fine as forgettable, nothing-else-is-on, Netflix entertainment, but so much of it just falls flat that you’re more likely to find yourself pining for what could have been. Screenwriter James Vanderbilt, who is to blame for the god-awful Independence Day: Resurgence, was clearly content to just take the most generic of ideas and run with it, relying on every trope imaginable for the genre. Heck, he couldn’t even come up with an amusing title. Ditto for first-time feature director Kyle Newacheck, who can’t even make a high-speed Ferrari chase through the streets of Monaco interesting.
Credit Sandler and (especially) Aniston, though. They jump in with both feet and actually do some decent work—a particularly admirable accomplishment considering what they’re working with. You make chuckle a few times, and you probably won’t jump off a cliff at having just wasted two hours, but there’s no mystery about whether this thing will end up on your repeat-viewing list. (It won’t.)