The Honeymoon Whodunnit (Film Review: “Murder Mystery”)

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Jennifer Aniston and Adam Sandler dish out all the tropes in this comic romp that plays like an Agatha Christie/Clue mashup set against a sparkling Mediterranean setting. An easy watch to welcome in Summer.

SnapShot Plot

Original it’s not, but that’s no reason to skip over the brand new Netflix comedy, Murder MysteryNor is the (mostly predictable) Adam Sandler reason to bail on this genial and surprisingly deft comedy about a working class couple from NYC who find themselves rubbing shoulders with European glitterati on a lavish yacht in the Mediterranean. Jennifer Aniston does the heavy lifting here – in her classically understated and perfectly timed performance – as Audrey Spitz, the hairdresser wife to would-be NYC police detective Nick Spitz (Sandler). After 15 years of marriage, cheapskate Nick finally caves on the European honeymoon he promised his wife on their wedding day, and while on their flight, Audrey (an avid mystery novel devotee) meets a veritable Lord, one Charles Cavendish (played with delicious tongue-in-cheek aplomb by Luke Evans.) In the first of many winks to the camera, a star struck Audrey exclaims that his name is something straight out of a murder mystery novel, and that he would most certainly be the villain. Before you can say, “Caviar, anyone?” the Spitzs are whisked aboard Charles’ uncle Malcolm’s yacht, where they encounter a cast of glamorous, Euro Trash characters straight out of a game of Clue. Of course there’s a love triangle and betrayal, an impending marriage, long seated family animosities, a Last Will up for grabs (worth Billions), and cronies crawling out of the woodwork. It’s the quintessential mystery trope that combines a motley cast of characters, each with an ax to grind, into a murderous tossed salad in which, one-by-one, they’re being picked off in increasingly mysterious and gruesome ways. The problem is, everyone seems to have an alibi. . . that is, everyone except Nick and Audrey, who become the American suspects at the center of the intrigue. Nick’s hapless approach to investigating the crimes and clearing him and his wife are textbook law enforcement. Audrey’s brand of detective work is inspired by the books she’s read all her life. How closely will real life match up to the plot lines of all those fictions? And will Nick and Audrey beat the rap and survive to write the end of the story?

 

 

Parting Shot

The casting was key in making a success of Murder Mystery. Even the usually uninspired Sandler does a serviceable job here, bolstered with the exceptional Aniston to make his bone headed jokes land with a laugh instead of a thud. And the fun ensemble cast (including the great Terence Stamp) makes the slapstick action fly by effortlessly, supplemented in no small part by the glamorous backdrop of Monte Carlo and Lake Como locations.

The way to enjoy Murder Mystery is to recognize that originality was the last thing anyone was going for in this latest Happy Madison production. In fact, the formula seems to be working, as its opening numbers on Netflix have shattered records, perhaps undeservedly if you’re expecting a masterwork in cinema. This family friendly comedy is all tongue-in-cheek, with an emphasis on mining the familiar tropes in the murder mystery catalog. Think of it as an homage to the likes of Christie, LeCarre and Hitchcock, but never taking itself so seriously as to beg a real comparison. So if your summer reading list includes at least one hackneyed murder mystery you’re saving for the beach or under an umbrella, just think: it could actually save your life some day if you’re accused of murdering someone most people wished were dead anyway. It could happen . . .

Murder Mystery is presently streaming on Netflix.

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YouTube Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5YEVQDr2f3Q

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