Murder Mystery review: Adam Sandler, Jennifer Aniston's Agatha Christie-style whodunit is crippled by lack of logic

Sonali Kokra

Jun 17, 2019 12:07:40 IST


Here’s a confession: I’ve been an Adam Sandler-Jennifer Aniston junkie for longer than I care to admit. There’s something very oddly comforting about their particular brand of cliched but charming comedy. I still giggle with glee with every viewing of You Don’t Mess With The Zohan, Click, and Punch-Drunk Love. And Jennifer Aniston’s one-note romantic misadventures — Along Came Polly, The Good Girl, Rumour Has It, The Break-Up, He’s Just Not That Into You — have always managed to elicit a twinge of sympathy from me. I was delighted when the pair came together for 2011’s damp squib Just Go With It, and found it in myself to enjoy it despite its five Golden Raspberry Nominations and two wins, for worst actor and worst director. How wrong can you really go with a romcom featuring two gorgeous women and one bumbling-blithering Bermuda-wearing man, all thrown together in Hawaii?

Murder Mystery review: Adam Sandler, Jennifer Anistons Agatha Christie-style whodunit is crippled by lack of logic

Luke Evans as Charles Cavendish, Adam Sandler as Nick Spitz and Jennifer Aniston as Audrey Spitz in Murder Mystery. Netflix

So it’s safe to assume that my appetite for brainless action-comedies like the unimaginatively named Murder Mystery is higher than most. And I was willing to forgive a lot. You more or less know what you’re signing up for when you walk into a Sandler film, there’s no point in furious hairsplitting later. But it must take a very special lack of talent, or utter disinterest in the movie on the part of its makers, to mount a movie in some of the most gorgeous locations in the world and yet have the visual depth of a lifeless postcard.

Audrey (Jennifer Aniston) and Nick (Adam Sandler) Spitz are a middle-class couple married for 15 years. Like most marriages that last that long, theirs too is mediocre and dysfunctional. She’s a hairdresser who wishes her husband would “just know” and make good on his wedding-day promise to take her on a European vacation, without having to ask. He’s a police sergeant pretending to be a detective to his wife because he’s too embarrassed to tell her that he failed his detective exams three times in a row. It’s a costly lie — he’s a “detective” on a sergeant’s salary — but somehow, Nick finds himself telling Audrey that they’re going to Europe as a surprise 15th anniversary gift for her.

It turns out to be a far more adventurous holiday than either had bargained for. A chance encounter with a dashing and devilish viscount Charles Cavendish (Luke Evans) on the flight has them abandoning their own plans to join him for a private party on a luxury yacht cruising through the Mediterranean. It belongs to his billionaire uncle Malcolm Quince (Terence Stamp), a thoroughly detestable man who is tolerated by his family only in anticipation of what he might leave them in his will. The Spitzes can’t believe their good fortune at being invited into a world they could never have otherwise accessed — the guests include a maharajah (Adeel Akhtar), a Formula One racer (Luis Gerardo Mendez), a movie superstar (Gemma Arterton) — until one after the other, the guests at the party start dying. And the Spitzes become the prime suspects.

Audrey and Nick are now forced to zip through Monaco and Lake Como, dodging a chain-smoking French detective, Inspector Laurent Delacroix (Dany Boon), who is convinced that the strange Americans are behind all the deaths. Along the way, they get chased down and shot at multiple times, but never stop bickering.

Adeel Akhtar as Maharaja Vikram Govindan and Gemma Arterton as Grace Ballard in Murder Mystery. Netflix

Adeel Akhtar as Maharaja Vikram Govindan and Gemma Arterton as Grace Ballard in Murder Mystery. Netflix

Aniston and Sandler share an easy, believable chemistry, given that it’s a role both have played countless times before. Their mildly-annoyed-but-ultimately-in-love couple act does manage to raise some appreciative chuckles. But the film is completely crippled by its lack of logic and impossible goings.

Murder Mystery is set up a lot like an Agatha Christie whodunit, but lacks the depth and richness of detail that make for clever deductions that lead us to the killer. There will be no surprised gasps or even the occasional glimmer of impressed wonderment when the Spitzes finally start connecting the dots, in the end. Their trail of clues is haphazard, their logic hamstrung, and the evidence is circumstantial, at best. On more than one occasion, I found myself drawing parallels between Murder Mystery and the Bollywood action-comedies where we’ve seen victims gesticulate wildly to indicate who the killer is but won’t just spit (or even write!) the damn name down, before falling in a dead heap. Like countless Bollywood films, Murder Mystery runs on the fumes of a glittery ensemble cast and gratuitous car chases.

The one thing that Director Kyle Newacheck and writer James Vanderbilt do get right is the unpredictability factor. The Spitzes' argument for deciding who the killer might be tenuous, but it’s unexpected, anyway. You never know whose hand the barrel of the gun rests in, as Nick and Audrey zig-zag through each guest’s reason for being on the yacht and motive for murder.

Murder Mystery is not all bad. It’s just bad as a murder mystery. What does it say about a thriller if its best parts are not the actual murder or the clues that lead you to the killer, but the squabbling, grumbling interactions of a bored, middle-aged couple?

Updated Date: Jun 17, 2019 12:23:57 IST