Murder Mystery 2 - Adam Sandler
Credit: Scott Yamano/Netflix
by M.G. Mailloux Featured Film Streaming Scene

Murder Mystery 2 — Jeremy Garelick

March 31, 2023

The last time we saw Adam Sandler and Jennifer Aniston on screen together as Nick and Audrey Spitz, the mid-life, middle-class Brooklynites were caught up in a convoluted murder plot involving various archetypes of European aristocracy, played by a respectable cast of British thespians. Drawing from a script by Zodiac screenwriter James Vanderbilt originally intended as a vehicle for Charlize Theron (who remained on as executive producer for both films), the first Murder Mystery film, while still obviously a Netflix product, did a nice job walking the “action comedy” line, an obvious fit for Sandler’s sensibilities that made time for some decent setpieces and wasn’t totally sanitized. It also expressed a charming, self-reflexive awareness of its own audience (i.e., Netflix subscribers), their viewing habits, and their lifestyles, centering the action on a working class couple — a cop and a hair stylist — whose mutual obsessions with true crime and British mystery television shows allowed them to see angles of the mystery that their snobbish Euro counterparts overlook (sort of like a gentler Bitter Moon).

Murder Mystery 2 doesn’t bother to tweak any of this really — why should it after the first film’s record-setting opening weekend viewership? — and isn’t worse for it, the 89-minute runtime punchy enough to sustain another go-around with the likable, well-paired Aniston/Sandler, improved somewhat by tight, colorful (by Netflix standards), action-minded cinematography courtesy of Ferrara/Verbinski DP Bojan Bazelli. After successfully solving Terrence Stamp’s murder last time, the Spitzs have returned to Brooklyn to set up a private eye operation that fails to bring in much money or excite Nick as much as it did when they were on vacation. Invited to a lavish Indian wedding by Adeel Akhtar’s Maharajah character from the previous movie, Nick jumps at the opportunity to live large and blow off studying for his detective license exam. But as the film’s sequalized title suggests, another murder mystery awaits these two, as festivities are cut short when Maharajah is assassinated as the ceremony begins, providing the Spitzs a prime opportunity to flex their powers of deduction. But this is quickly undercut by the entrance of Mark Strong as a super detective who doubts their abilities and innocence.

Murder Mystery 2 is mostly driven by fish-out-of-water gags and Hot Fuzz-type action genre parody, none of which is particularly fresh, but still comes to life thanks to Sandler and Aniston’s rapport, which exists comfortably between sitcom-ish, gendered debasement and sweet, mutual deprecation that keeps the proceedings away from the caustic cruelty that can occasionally get the better of a Happy Madison production. The game supporting cast helps, too (Jodie Turner-Smith especially, Mélanie Laurent somewhat), though it’s really Bazelli’s camerawork that puts the movie up and over, handily managing explosive action and pulling some vibrant images out of the film’s decadent wedding party scene. Something of a trifle, Murder Mystery 2 at least actually succeeds at entertaining and manages some solid, pleasant looking photography — perhaps not a tremendous feat, but a bit more than the majority of Hollywood blockbusters manage these days. It’s certainly not a movie likely to persist in the cultural memory, but is one clearly made by artists who care, and is enjoyable in the moment, which is no trifling feat.

You can currently stream Jeremy Garelick’s Murder Mystery 2 on Netflix.

Published as part of InRO Weekly — Volume 1, Issue 13.