Tuesday, June 18, 2024

Movie Review: ‘Murder Mystery 2’ is Simple Fun At Home

Director: Jeremy Garelick

Writer: James Vanderbilt

Stars: Adam Sandler, Jennifer Aniston, Mark Strong

Synopsis: Full-time detectives Nick and Audrey are struggling to get their private eye agency off the ground. They find themselves at the center of international abduction when their friend Maharaja, is kidnapped at his own lavish wedding.

Four years ago, Murder Mystery set sail on Netflix’s streaming waters with the team “Saniston,” establishing one of the dullest comedies in recent memory. Every time well-respected and likable megastars executed a joke, each fell flat. Never before have you yearned for a Rob Schneider cameo to give a comedy some much-needed life, and that’s saying something. The tedious riffs and homage of Clue was a waste of everyone’s time and talent. While Murder Mystery 2 changes course, switching to more of an action couple’s comedy like Date Night, some much-needed improvements are made. Though, you see fewer risks taken and an outcome you easily see coming from a mile away.

 The Binge’s Jeremy Garelick now steps behind the camera while working with another script from Scream VI scribe James Vanderbilt. The story picks up a few years later as Audrey and Nick Spitz (Jennifer Aniston and Adam Sandler) run a floundering private investigation agency. Sure, some couples may find working together a pathway to strengthening a marriage with deeper bonds with shared interests. However, the Spitz’s are getting on each other’s nerves. Including the former New York City cop ruining an investigation for an insecure spouse (Anni Mumolo) into her suspected cheating husband (Tony Goldwyn). How? By crunching on some salty snacks in her ears equipped with a transmitter out of spite for her wife chomping down a couple of shrimp cocktails.

The Spitzs then receive a much-needed invitation to The Maharajah’s (Adeel Akhtar) wedding to his new wife, Claudette (Mélanie Laurent). They look around at their crumbling business and decide to make this trip a honeymoon they never had. That’s until The Maharajah is taken and a fifty-million-dollar ransom is put on his head. Who is behind this latest version of Happy Madison’s Clue? The gold-digging fiancé? The jealous sister, Saira (The Big Sick’s Kuhoo Verma)? Their old friend, Colonel Ulenga (John Kani)? The Countess Sekou (Jodie-Turner Smith)? Or the international film star who has had over 10,000 lovers, Francisco (Enrique Arce)? While you may put your money on the one who probably has a couple of dozen paternity lawsuits, the Spitzs need help from a Special Air Service officer. His name is Miller (Mark Strong), a renowned hostage crisis expert who wrote a book on the subject. He comes in (or more like swims) to assist Nick and Audrey with their incompetence.

What Murder Mystery 2 does well is blending a handful of comedy and action sequences. I’m unsure if Sandler has picked up a fake gun since 1996’s Bulletproof, but he is not out of place here. The scenes here have nice energy and fold in some enjoyable moments of dark or irreverent humor. Another nice change here is the investigation. The original had most of the suspects in the same room. As the story progresses, suspects pick themselves off left and right in various locations. Now, not all the jokes land, and Vanderbilt’s humor leans towards the two stars riffing into Saturday Night Live Weekend Update’s buddy-buddy nonsensical shtick. Sometimes it works, like Danny Boon’s inappropriate Inspector Delacroix and Jillian Bell’s homage to Sleepless in Seattle’s Annie Reed. Other moments, like Turner-Smith Countess Sekou, are repetitive, dull, and one note.

Also, if you are a fan of this type of film, you will immediately spot the main villain (or one of them, in this case ), which is almost always based on the size of the role and name recognition. Not to mention, the initial beard the script utilizes you’ve seen thousands of times before. You have the second cliché with a flimsy explanation for another bad guy in the shadows. None of this adds to any suspense the action comedy tries to build up. Yet, I’m sure no one has that expectation going into this sequel in the first place.

Obviously, if you are a cinephile, Murder Mystery 2 is a cliched mix of action-buddy comedy tropes. And honestly, the film has them in droves. (Including the classic out-of-shape star who basically kicks a trained mercenary in the shin, and the villain proceeds to do a 360 spin as if their leg was blown off). However, Sandler, Aniston, and company land a few good laughs and enough goodwill to engage the casual movie fan to the finish line. There’s enough fun and effort here to give the unearned sequel a mild recommendation for anyone who enjoys the film’s stars and the genre. This is a date night movie, plain and simple, and an improvement over the original.

 Grade: C-








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