Focusing on the individual within the relationship, Netflix’s new comedy delivers not only a welcome progression of diversity on screen but exists as another ripple in the path that is the skipping stone of successful Netflix comedies. Featuring actualised female and male leads that regardless of the complications – owed in part to their sensical character flaws – nevertheless delight with humour and authenticity that speaks to the human existence.
Can they navigate the mysterious waters their relationship finds themselves without compromising who they represent as individuals? Can they make it work? Can they keep it cute?
I am of course talking about the delightful Netflix comedy Always Be My Maybe, which has in the weeks following its release mustered up the collective ‘awwws’ of the internet and spurred on the 2019 Keanu-sance.
And then there is Netflix’s other entry in the comedy genre: Murder Mystery, a film so content with taking the easy road that it seeps through to its unimaginative title.
Standard silly Sandler shenanigans (say that 5 times), Murder Mystery is the latest romp in the Adam Sandler arsenal of Netflix comedies; a lucrative arrangement for Sandler that allows him to churn out uninspired material. An evident pastiche on Agatha Christie mystery novels, Murder Mystery begs to question less of a whodunnit scenario and more of a ‘whydunnit’ on the part of the filmmakers who are as unengaged with the material as Sandler is with his tepid delivery.
Murder Mystery finds Sandlers mustache-laden Nick Spitz, a police officer who lies about being a detective to his wife Audrey (Jennifer Aniston), embroiled in the mystery of a billionaire (Terence Stamp) while on vacation in Europe. A game of Cluedo then follows as the Spitz’s investigate who is responsible amongst the list of suspects, many of which are presented by offensive caricatures who, going by Sandler’s body of work, were likely to be played by him.
Things happen for the sake of the plot chugging ahead like the Orient Express instead of events being grounded in any sort of well thought-out screenplay; a surprise considering scribe James Vanderbilt is responsible for weaving dark, suspenseful mysteries as evident in 2007 thriller Zodiac. Admittedly, the mystery element is not as central to the film as the relationship between Sandler and Aniston, with the mystery functioning as a ploy to rekindle the romance in their tired marriage (yep). Considering the script contains no semblance of any form of likeable character (Sandler’s insecure, crappy husband type renders him irredeemably unpleasant) it makes all of the Spitz’s interactions irritating, diffusing any instance of humour, causing any chance of a laugh to fizzle.
Loveless writing (Aniston’s character proclaiming to her husband of fifteen years that she has a love of reading, which seems surprising to him) is a bloodier mess than the actual murder scene. Further fuel is added to the frustration flame with Murder Mystery making no effort to disguise its mimicry in vibe to 2018 dark comedy Game Night – going down to the blue, noir vibe of the plane to the quick-cut shots that act as transitions.
There is clearly an audience that find great pleasure in watching Sandler and friends engage in light-hearted hijinx, and they’ll continue to find his work in their Netflix recommended watches.
But, the biggest frustration lies with Netflix who will continue to lose ground in its bid to be as respected as legacy studios are in Hollywood should it continue to double down on loveless filmmaking – the implications of which will impact important films like 2018 Oscar favourite Roma from heightened awareness.
Needless to say, Murder Mystery is a cold case not worth reopening.
Director: Kyle Newacheck
Cast: Adam Sandler, Jennifer Aniston, Terence Stamp
Writer: James Vanderbilt