Oh Adam Sandler. What has happened to you? I can safely say that Adam Sandler is one of the reasons I am here at Back Lot 605. Growing up, Sandler was one of my influences for wanting to get into film. Movies like Billy Madison, Happy Gilmore, and Big Daddy had me reenacting scenes over and over. Many of those same scenes I quote to this day! But then something happened. All of a sudden Adam Sandler was no longer funny. This is where Murder Mystery comes in.
Every crass or lame attempt of a joke began to land flat. Was Sandler just no longer funny, or had I matured to an age in which his humor no longer resonated? I think the perfect way to examine this is by looking at his current filmography. Sandler’s last 6 live action films have gone straight to Netflix. After signing an unprecedented exclusive deal with Netflix, Sandler has pumped out films such as The Ridiculous 6, The Do-Over, and this past week Murder Mystery. As we take a look at his latest I hope discover if I have just become cynical to Sandler’s comedy, or if Sandler is truly become an unfunny comedian.
Murder Mystery Synopsis
Nick Spitz (Sandler) is a New York City police officer (though we never see Sandler actually wearing a police uniform). He has failed to become a NYC detective on many occasions, much to the disappointment of his wife Audrey (Jennifer Aniston). At the couple’s 15 year anniversary dinner, Spitz tells her he got the promotion. Though she is delighted, Audrey still holds Nick to his promise of taking her on a European honeymoon. Nick caves and tells Audrey his special anniversary surprise was their trip to Europe.
On the plane ride there, Audrey meets a billionaire playboy Charles Cavendish (Luke Evans). Cavendish invites the Spitz couple to join him in crashing his uncles wedding, of whom is marrying his ex-lover. The Spitz’s join Cavendish on his uncle Malcolm’s yacht for the wedding. Malcolm (Terrance Stamp) reveals that he invited his closest family and friends to his wedding to have them witness him sign them off of his will. Instead all of his wealth will go to soon to be wife Suzi. Just then the lights go out and when they return Malcolm lays dead on the floor. With a room full suspects with obvious motives, who could be the killer?
What I Liked
Now before we get into what didn’t work in this film, which believe me there is a lot of, let’s discuss what was passable in Murder Mystery. The things I liked include the casting of Luke Evans and Sandler and Aniston’s chemistry. Luke Evans has always been an actor I have enjoyed, I like seeing him take on a more comedic role. Here he mostly plays the straight-man role, I think there are glimpses of what could be a really fun comedic actor. If given the right role I’d love to see Evans take on a leading role in a comedy.
Sandler and Aniston reunite from their first feature film together, Just Go With It. The chemistry between these two makes you feel like these real life friends have done more work together. Aniston and Sandler feel like a real married couple, although they don’t feel like the two characters they are playing. Both are basically fictionalized versions of themselves, with occupations that don’t match the lifestyles of Sandler or Aniston.
What Could Have Been Improved
Jumping off what I just said about the characters, Nick and Audrey Spitz are presented as characters down on their luck. Nick is an NYC police officer who has failed to become a detective, and Audrey is a hair dresser. Both of these occupations do not match the vacation they go on nor the attire that they take on said trip. I know this might be a nitpicking thing, but if the character’s aren’t presented like they are written, rather like the actors that portray them, it takes you out of the movie.
The biggest negative I have in this film is Sandler. He looks bored every time he is on screen or given something to say. I give the man props for the production behind his films. He sets each in a vacation destination, casts his friends in co-starring roles, and they all get to go on a multi-week vacation. I can give the man props for that. But, where I find this divide is how little of effort he puts into these films as an actor. He gives no effort in line delivery, and even less in trying to play anyone but Adam Sandler.
This brings me to my biggest complaint in this Netflix comedy, it is simply not funny. Each line delivery is either underplayed or played to an extreme. Sandler is known for his loud outbursts and over-the-top antics, but in Murder Mystery he does neither. Most of the supporting cast are overplayed stereotypes. Lastly, The worst offender maybe a Spanish race car driver whose dialogue basically consists of him saying “vroom, vroom. I drive fast.”
Murder Mystery Final Thoughts
This film has become Netflix’s most watched film in it’s first three days. A number that would estimate to a $120 million opening. With those numbers there is no doubt the Sandler and Netflix partnership will remain. If it does continue, my hope is that the Sand Man can find a return to form.
Even with the quality of his filmography, I have always given him a chance. Murder Mystery may finally be where I call it quits. Although it may be his least offensive film, it lacks any creative spirit that the actor once had. Murder Mystery ends up being a 90 minute version of an Adam Sandler family vacation that we aren’t invited on. If you see this film come up on your Netflix screen just skip it, and watch Sandler’s stand up special 100% Fresh instead.
Overall Score 1.5/5