• Follow us

Movies

Review: Adam Sandler and Jennifer Aniston look for clues and laughs in a strained ‘Murder Mystery’

It spoils nothing to point out that “Murder Mystery,” a painless, mostly mirthless action-comedy starring Adam Sandler and Jennifer Aniston, ends with an explicit homage to Agatha Christie. It’s not an especially obscure reference — sorry, “Postern of Fate” fans — which is only to be expected. Any movie with a title like “Murder Mystery” is clearly both announcing and skewering its own obviousness. But it also might be presenting itself as an increasingly rare bird, a throwback to the days when big stars, baroque weapons and a little parlor trickery could yield an inordinate amount of pleasure.

Which is not to imply that the murder mystery is some kind of endangered cinematic subspecies. Christie herself remains a hot commodity, as evidenced by recent screen adaptations of “And Then There Were None” and “Murder on the Orient Express.” Even still, we are well past the days when Hollywood churned out classical detective yarns by the dozen for an audience hip to their geeky, creaky puzzle-solving pleasures. For anyone who mourns those days, the mere idea of a daffy, spoofy “Clue” knockoff, with two popular American stars heading up a large international cast, might sound like a reasonably enticing prospect.

The intentions are certainly there in “Murder Mystery” even when the execution falters, as it does early and often. You could think of Nick and Audrey Spitz, a bickering couple on a long-overdue European vacation, as an ugly-American version of Nick and Nora Charles, or perhaps Tommy and Tuppence Beresford. Nick (Sandler) is a slovenly NYPD cop who keeps failing his detective exam. Audrey (Aniston) is a long-suffering hairdresser and, conveniently, a mystery buff.

She spends most of their transatlantic flight buried in her latest paperback whodunit, foreshadowing the mayhem to come and establishing herself as the real sleuth of the two. But she also strikes up a conversation with Charles Cavendish (Luke Evans), a handsome first-class passenger who turns out to be an English viscount on his way to a dreaded family reunion. He invites Audrey and Nick along for kicks; they impulsively say yes, and soon find themselves aboard a private yacht overflowing with shrimp cocktail and extremely toxic vibes.

Advertisement

You need only glance at Charles’ monstrous billionaire uncle, Malcolm Quince (Terence Stamp, in full glower-power mode), to know that he will wind up with a bejeweled dagger in his chest before the night is over. Was he murdered by Toby (David Williams), the son he despised, or Charles, the embittered nephew he recently divested of his fiancée (Shioli Kutsuna)? Or could it have been the glamorous actress (Gemma Arterton), the brooding colonel (John Kani), the wisecracking maharajah (Adeel Akhtar), the hunky Formula One superstar (Luis Gerardo Méndez) or the hulking bodyguard (Ólafur Darri Ólafsson) — nearly all of whom had good reason to loathe Malcolm even before he announced his decision to cut them out of his will?

Naturally, despite an abundance of motive in Malcolm’s inner circle, the easy targets here are Nick and Audrey, who quickly arouse the suspicions of the pompous French detective (Dany Boon) assigned to investigate. And so they set out to prove their innocence, tracking this increasingly frenzied homicidal farce from Málaga to Monte Carlo to Lake Como, where the multiple grisly crime scenes somehow never run the risk of spoiling the scenery. They do, however, tend to cancel out what little hilarity the director Kyle Newacheck (“Game Over, Man!”) and his actors are able to muster.

Murder Mystery

Adam Sandler, from left, Jennifer Aniston and Luis Gerardo Méndez in the movie "Murder Mystery."

(Scott Yamano / Netflix)

One could imagine a context in which some of this belabored mayhem might be funny, maybe a dinner-theater stage with lots of booze and a strong audience-participation element. Seen from the vantage of your living room, however, the spectacle of Aniston and Sandler bumbling their way through one strained, busy set-piece after another becomes a deflating, even depressing experience. You watch as they submit themselves to the usual hijinks of escape and pursuit, whether it means walking along a narrow upper-story ledge or joining a high-speed car chase, and realize that you long to see them doing just about anything else.

Advertisement

This is hardly the fault of the actors, both game professionals who seem to be following the advice of their 2011 screen pairing, “Just Go With It.” Sandler, who can be a superb dramatic actor when given the right role, can’t do much with this lame hapless-hubby routine. Aniston, not for the first time, seems more engaged and wide-awake than her material, and you can sense her mental gears grinding away as she tests out bits of business and digs for stray moments of comic gold.

None, alas, are forthcoming. The screenwriter James Vanderbilt, whose credits include the brilliant true-crime procedural “Zodiac,” clearly knows enough about plotting to squeeze in a nifty red herring or several, and he’s good at planting clues that double neatly as product placements. He does not, however, appear to have an obvious aptitude for comedy, or at least not the spirit of inspired, unruly silliness to which the movie seems to aspire. “Murder Mystery” is a reminder that there are few things harder to pull off, that what looks casually tossed-off, in fact, requires skill and ingenuity, timing and concentration. That’s the difference between a comedy that sags and one that kills.

------------

‘Murder Mystery’

Rating: PG-13, for violence/bloody images, crude sexual content and language

Running time: 1 hour, 36 minutes

Playing: Streaming on Netflix

justin.chang@latimes.com | Twitter: @JustinCChang

Read More



Leave A Comment

More News

Rolling Stone Latest Movies

Can a Beatles Fan Believe in ‘Yesterday’? 2019-07-01 11:36:54Our resident hardcore Beatleologist on why this fantasy about a Fab Four-less world should have fixed its holes

‘Jumanji: The Next Level’ Trailer Puts Clever Spin 2019-07-01 11:12:39Danny DeVito and Danny Glover transform into Dwayne Johnson and Kevin Hart in sequel to 2017 reboot

‘Spider-Man: Far From Home’ Review: The Webslinger Swings 2019-07-01 10:54:55Tom Holland saves this decent enough Spidey movie set in a post-'Endgame' MCU

Why ‘The Queen’ Documentary Is an Essential Queer 2019-06-28 12:37:48Intimate 1968 portrait of gender pioneers returns to screens for Pride month — and its rightful place in the LGBTQ pantheon

The Last Word: John Waters on Censorship, Smoking 2019-06-27 13:46:21With a new book called 'Mr. Know-It-All' out now, the People's Pervert goes deep on the things that make him tick

New Ariana Grande, Miley Cyrus, Lana Del Rey 2019-06-27 09:53:03Upcoming franchise reboot stars Kristen Stewart, Naomi Scott, Ella Balinska

‘Maiden’ Review: An All-Female Crew’s Sail of the 2019-06-27 09:00:12Documentary on the 1989 yacht crew who beat the odds to win a major race and knocked the sexist world of sailing on its ass

Ian McKellen Keeps Dark Secrets From Helen Mirren 2019-06-26 14:38:48McKellan stars as a con man out for Mirren's money

Best Movies to See in July: ‘Once Upon 2019-06-26 10:06:37From Quentin Tarantino's epic valentine to Tinseltown to a feline Beyoncé and a new Webslinger adventure

‘Yesterday’ Review: In a Beatles-Less World, Love Really 2019-06-26 08:29:41Danny Boyle's romcom imagines a history without the Fab Four — and an aspiring songwriter who decides to fill in the gap

Franco Zeffirelli, ‘Romeo and Juliet’ Director, Dead at 2019-06-15 12:01:11Italian filmmaker known for his Shakespeare adaptations, renowned opera productions

The First Time: Chris Redd 2019-06-14 10:58:07Comedian talks bombing on stage, impersonating Kanye West and his new film, Deep Murder

FilmBook

KNIVES OUT (2019) Movie Trailer: Daniel Craig & 2019-07-03 15:09:54  Knives Out Trailer Rian Johnson‘s Knives Out (2019) movie trailer has been released by Lionsgate and stars Daniel Craig, Chris Evans, Lak

ANIMAL KINGDOM: Season 4, Episode 7: Know Thy 2019-07-03 10:00:29  Animal Kingdom Know Thy Enemy Trailer and Ambo Plot Synopsis TNT‘s Animal Kingdom: Season 4, Episode 7: Know Thy Enemy TV show trailer an

THE HANDMAID‘S TALE: Season 3, Episode 8: Unfit 2019-07-03 08:30:15  The Handmaid’s Tale Unfit Trailer Hulu‘s The Handmaid’s Tale: Season 3, Episode 8: Unfit TV show trailer has been released an

AMC San Diego Comic-Con 2019 Panels: THE WALKING 2019-07-03 07:00:08  AMC San Diego Comic-Con 2019 Panels A press release has been issued for the AMC San Diego Comic-Con 2019 Panels. The press release consists of

News Brief: Regal Cinemas’ Unlimited Film Ticket Service, 2019-07-02 21:14:08  News Brief: Regal Cinemas’ Unlimited Film Ticket Service, New Seasons of The Flash & Wynonna Earp Begin Production, and More In brief

AGENTS OF SHIELD: Season 6, Episode 8: Collision 2019-07-02 11:30:51  Agents of Shield Collision Course (Part 1) Trailer and Episode 9-10 Synopses ABC‘s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.: Season 6, Episode 8: Collision

SUITS: Season 9 TV Show Trailer: The Final 2019-07-02 10:00:44  Suits Season 9 Trailer USA‘s Suits: Season 9 TV show trailer has been released and stars Patrick J. Adams, Gabriel Macht, Katherine Heigl

Disney Television Studios San Diego Comic-Con 2019 Panels: 2019-07-02 08:30:04  Disney Television Studios San Diego Comic-Con 2019 Panels A press release has been issued for Disney Television Studios’ San Diego Comic-

EUPHORIA: Season 1, Episode 4: Shook One Pt. 2019-07-02 07:00:19  Euphoria Shook One Pt. II Trailer HBO‘s Euphoria: Season 1, Episode 4: Shook One Pt. II TV show trailer has been released and stars Zenda

THE BOYS (2019) TV Show Featurette & TV 2019-07-01 18:13:49  The Boys TV Show Featurette and TV Spot A TV show featurette and a new TV show commercial for The Boys (2019) have been released Amazon Prime.

JUMANJI: THE NEXT LEVEL (2019) Movie Trailer: The 2019-07-01 12:40:30  Jumanji: The Next Level Trailer Jake Kasdan‘s Jumanji: The Next Level (2019) movie trailer has been released by Sony Pictures and stars D

Box Office: June 28-30, 2019: TOY STORY 4, 2019-07-01 09:00:08  Box Office June 28-30, 2019 Toy Story 4 was the Number One film at the box office for the second weekend in a row with $57.9 Million for $236.9

NYT > Movies

Review: ‘Spider-Man: Far From Home’ Is the Latest 2019-07-02 00:53:11Peter Parker deals with teenage angst and lingering Stark Industries H.R. issues while trying to enjoy a trip to Europe.

‘Toy Story 4’ Is Bigger Than the Beatles 2019-07-01 17:31:57After a solid second weekend, the movie’s global total has hit $496.5 million. “Yesterday” landed in third place.

Bob Dorian, Genial Guide to Old Films on 2019-07-01 16:49:21A movie buff since childhood, Mr. Dorian was an actor, a magician and a disc jockey before joining the channel as prime-time host in 1984.

Review: Hugh Jackman Isn’t Quite the Greatest Showman 2019-07-01 16:48:20His world tour “The Man. The Music. The Show.” stopped at Madison Square Garden. But it would have been better on Broadway.

Isabel Sarli, Popular Star of Racy Argentine Films, 2019-07-01 15:06:01Ms. Sarli reached international audiences in dozens of movies that were the bane of censors, starting with one in which she appeared fully nude.

The Long and Winding Road to ‘Yesterday,’ a 2019-07-01 14:52:10Want to make a movie about the enduring power of the Beatles? You’ll need a lot of their songs, and more than a little help from your friends.

‘A Bundle of Action’ and ‘Just the Right 2019-07-01 11:20:44Young moviegoers weigh in on the much-anticipated Pixar sequel.

‘Yesterday’ | Anatomy of a Scene 2019-07-01 10:53:07Danny Boyle narrates a sequence from his film.

Tom Hiddleston to Star in Broadway Revival of 2019-06-30 23:17:30Jamie Lloyd’s production of Harold Pinter’s romantic triangle is transferring this fall after a sold-out London run.

‘Yesterday’ Star Himesh Patel Was Delivering Papers Not 2019-06-30 23:11:49When he was a soap opera regular, his parents insisted that he have a paper route to keep him grounded. That lasted till he was 21.

‘Yesterday’ Review: I Saw a Film Today, Oh 2019-06-30 18:18:16Danny Boyle and Richard Curtis invite you to imagine there’s no Beatles.

A Bird Show Spots a Rival, and Bird-Watchers 2019-06-29 23:34:16Two nature series with black hosts debuted online recently. The makers of one say their rivals are playing into racial stereotypes.

L.A. Times - Movie News

Review: In the unsettling ‘Midsommar,’ the nightmare unfolds 2019-07-01 18:25:00The setting of “Midsommar,” a luxuriant deep-tissue freakout from writer-director Ari Aster, is a picturesque commune in Hälsingland,

CAA becomes third agency to take Writers Guild 2019-07-01 15:15:00CAA has filed an antitrust lawsuit against the Writers Guild of America, becoming the third Hollywood talent agency to take the union to court over th

Film academy invites more women than men to 2019-07-01 14:45:00As of Monday, there are a whole lot more people in Hollywood who’d like to thank the academy. In its latest step toward diversifying its histori

Taylor Swift rages on the news of Scooter 2019-06-30 17:20:00Taylor Swift took to Tumblr on Sunday to express her frustration over news that her master recordings had been acquired by music manager Scooter Braun

‘Toy Story’ remains on top, ‘Annabelle 3’ and 2019-06-30 13:50:00Toys continued to dominate the box office for a second consecutive weekend with "Toy Story 4" maintaining its position at the top of the charts and

Meet ‘The Last Black Man in San Francisco’ 2019-06-29 10:00:00Like the pastors and storytellers in his life he credits with igniting his early artistic spark, Jonathan Majors is given to spinning bright bursts of

Writers Guild sends cease and desist letter to 2019-06-28 20:20:00After being slapped this week with lawsuits from two of Hollywood’s biggest talent agencies, the Writers Guild of America fired back on Friday,

Indie Focus: Climb on board with 'Maiden' 2019-06-28 17:00:00Hello! I’m Mark Olsen. Welcome to another edition of your regular field guide to a world of Only Good Movies. Anyone looking to celebrate the up

The captain of the Maiden talks about how 2019-06-28 16:10:00Thirty years ago, Tracy Edwards and her female crew made history when they entered the male-dominated world of the Whitbread Round the World yacht rac

New video: ‘Transit’ is another provocative thriller from 2019-06-28 08:00:00New on Blu-ray “Transit” (Music Box DVD, $29.95; Blu-ray, $34.95; also available on VOD) German director Christian Petzold has made some o

Review: Carlos Reygadas’ ‘Our Time’ opens up a 2019-06-27 15:55:00In the most resonant sequence in Carlos Reygadas’ “Our Time,” the camera soars over a mist-shrouded landscape while a woman, Esther

Review: ‘Blue Note Records: Beyond The Notes’ celebrates 2019-06-27 15:55:00Jazz may be a quintessentially American art form, but it is Europeans who make some of the best jazz documentaries, with the captivating “Blue N

CinemaBlend Latest Content

Rami Malek On Refusing To Play A Religious 2019-07-03 13:57:53Born of Egyptian parents, the Mr. Robot actor was worried about playing a villain at first.

Wait, Is Quentin Tarantino Done With Movies After 2019-07-03 13:51:16The director has a self-imposed cap of 10 films, but could he decide to call it a career early?

The #1 Reason You Should See Endgame's Re-Release, 2019-07-03 13:06:30Spoiler alert: it involved a photo from the set.

Could The Beatles Survive In Today’s Music Industry? 2019-07-03 12:32:10An interesting concept. They should totally make a movie about it.

New Lion King Video Includes First Look At 2019-07-03 12:11:59It means "no worries."

Midsommar Is A ‘Beautiful Nightmare’ According To Florence 2019-07-03 11:32:10This movie sounds wild.

Director Jon Watts Has A Cool Theory About 2019-07-03 11:27:03Oh man, I hope this plays out.

Star Wars’ Daisy Ridley Teases An Epic Lightsaber 2019-07-03 10:56:41The conclusion to an epic saga needs an epic battle.

Deadpool Creator Rob Liefeld Wants Justice League’s Snyder 2019-07-03 10:44:07Add him to the list.

Ed Sheeran Helped Yesterday Director Danny Boyle Get 2019-07-03 09:55:58Ed Sheeran made sure one thing about Yesterday was done right.

The 7 Female Marvel Characters Who Need Solo 2019-07-03 09:02:17The worldwide moviegoing audience has proven that not only can women carry an entire superhero film by themselves, we WANT to see them do it.

How Spider-Man Far From Home Explains The World 2019-07-03 08:39:33They have a lot of explaining to do.


Disclaimer and Notice:WorldProNews.com is not responsible of these news or any information published on this website.