Over the years, “Netflix Movie” has become sort of a genre unto itself. And that’s not often the most flattering label. It can mean a movie is generic, average, looks low-budget, is a good movie to have on while you’re doing something else because you don’t have to pay too close attention. There’s more you could say, but those terms are about a perfect description for Murder Mystery 2, the latest Netflix original from Adam Sandler.
The sequel to 2019’s Murder Mystery, Murder Mystery 2 reunites Adam Sandler and Jennifer Aniston as Nick and Audrey Spitz. After their tumultuous vacation in the first movie, the two quit their jobs (Nick an NYPD officer and Audrey a hairdresser) to go full-time into private eye work. And it’s not going well. Audrey says it’s because neither are certified; Nick argues they need better marketing. But anyone with an ounce of common sense can see it’s nothing more than the two simply aren’t good at the job. But nevertheless, they persist, frustrating as it may be.
The work struggles are taking a toll on their marriage as well, putting a serious strain on their relationship. But a reprieve arrives out of the blue. Their friend Vikram, the Maharajah they met in the first movie, is getting married, and invites them to attend an all-expense paid trip to the event, taking place on his new private island. They gladly accept, excited about the prospect at getting away from the grind, even if only for a weekend.
But that excitement is short-lived, as Vikram’s bodyguard is murdered and the Maharajah is kidnapped the night before the wedding. The Spitzes are on the case, and of course there is no shortage of suspects.
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Among them: Board member and former soccer star Francisco (Enrique Arce), who is bleeding money with countless paternity suits. Vikram’s fiancée Claudette (Mélanie Laurent), who some suspect of being a gold-digger. She had to sign an iron-clad prenup, so orchestrating a kidnapping and making off with the ransom money could be a way around that. Vikram’s ex-fiancée – and Claudette’s maid of honor – Countess Sekou (Jodie Turner-Smith) could be looking at way to exact revenge on both of them.
That’s only a taste, though, as they can’t write off anyone who was in attendance. Even the Spitzes aren’t off the table as suspects, as SAS mercenary Miller (Mark Strong) points out. The Maharajah is a rich, widely known businessman. Orchestrating – and solving – a high-visibility kidnapping could be just the boost they need to finally get their business off the ground. Not sure who they can trust, and with limited time to save their friend, Nick and Audrey have their most important case yet.
The best thing Murder Mystery 2 has going for it is that it’s actually pretty funny. The jokes come at a steady clip and have a surprisingly solid hit rate. We’re not talking Billy Madison or Happy Gilmore here, but that’s not what you should be expecting from Sandler at this point in his career anyway. But the jokes are good enough and will at least keep you laughing and entertained throughout its lightning fast 90 minute runtime.
More movies need to be short. That’s nothing against longer movies, but not everything needs to be a huge 2.5-3 hour epic. But if a movie is going to go the short route, it needs to be economical with its time. And Murder Mystery 2 is not. It takes too long to get to the meat of the story, and then has to rush through everything else. It doesn’t properly set up any of the characters outside of the Spitzes. This is a rare case where I would actually ask for a longer runtime. It wouldn’t need a lot. Just a little something to better flesh out the characters and plot lines.
It tries to do the suspect list rundown you expect from a murder mystery like this (And if I want to nitpick, which I do, the core mystery at play here isn’t a murder, it’s the kidnapping. But I guess Kidnapping Mystery isn’t as catchy a title; but I digress). But it zips through it quickly; it’s basically pointless. And from there, it jumps from one scene to the next so quickly, that nothing has time to settle with the audience. You don’t have much of a chance to understand anyone’s potential motives past the basic surface-level introduction.
The ending is a letdown as well. The “drawing room scene” is a hallmark moment of many a mystery movie. Murder Mystery 2 barely attempts to give us one. At least the final reveal isn’t telegraphed, but nothing about it is surprising. And with how little insight we get into the characters, it all feels very unearned.
The entire plotting feels like the movie was shot off a story outline rather than an actual script. I was never expecting this movie to be incredibly deep or nuanced, but each scene ends up coming off as simply the beginning of an idea, and nothing more.
Even with all the problems, Murder Mystery 2 still somehow manages to be fairly fun. Sandler and Aniston have great chemistry, and the rest of the cast does as well as they can with what they were given. In particular, Francisco, the Countess, and the Countess’s friend and lackey Imani (Zurin Villanueva) are specific highlights. The cast really does all the heavy lifting here. Given all my issues with the movie as a whole, I’m surprised I came out of liking even as much as I did. The cast gets nearly all the credit.
Nothing about Murder Mystery 2 is going to “wow” you. There are no huge laughs, or instantly quotable lines. But there is enough here to keep you mostly entertained and engaged. For better or worse, it’s a quintessential Netflix movie.
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