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Murder Mystery

July 22, 2019

Murder Mystery (2019)
Director: Kyle Newacheck
Actors: Adam Sandler, Jennifer Aniston, Luke Evans

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Synopsis: Lowly NYC police officer Nick Spitz (Adam Sandler) takes his wife, Audrey (Jennifer Aniston), on an impromptu tour of Europe after 15 years of being cajoled by her to do this. On the plane, they meet a mysterious British aristocrat, and there begins a sequence of events whereby Nick and Audrey are thrust into the middle of a murderous conspiracy.

Review: There’s a place for tacky, lo-fi larks in cinema. The fact that Murder Mystery can’t be bothered to reach even that desperately low watermark is its main crime, not the fact it’s tacky per se. It’s almost as if the creators (whoever they are – the writer, director, Adam Sandler himself?) couldn’t be bothered to develop the scenario beyond the level of a slapdash first draft, and have just shoved it out on Netflix, knowing that, to some extent, its success and the number of hits it gets will be immune from any piffling concerns such as whether the film itself has any actual merit?

To list all the film’s misdemeanours is by the by; the most prevalent, though, is that it could have at least been a bit of goofy, cartoonish fun. Sadly, it isn’t. Its plot is such a flimsy and throwaway construction. With just a bit more thought and care, the filmmakers could have developed its genre conceit (Jennifer Aniston’s yearning wife is an avid consumer of crime thriller novels, the exact type she becomes embroiled in), but even this plot detail feels like an afterthought – shoe-horned in randomly when she’s already on the flight to Europe.

The film is full of these strange omissions and under-developments. Another is how we are thrust arbitrarily from the stereotypical presentation of the married couple in their NYC life to their unlikely European adventure (he’s a humdrum cop who continually lies about being a detective and promising his wife a fancy European vacation; she’s a wry hairdresser, resigned to recounting the failings of her husband to similarly disappointed women). They argue one evening at home, then in the next scene they’re queuing for a flight to Europe. There’s no insight as to how Sandler’s character goes about planning or affording this, or how he’s able to fool his wife into thinking this has been planned.

Filmmakers of the ilk of Alfred Hitchcock and a prime Woody Allen have made hay with these flimsy capers that seem to get by on star quality alone, but, beneath the ease we see on screen, there’s so much more craft and industry than Sandler and director Kyle Newacheck can be bothered to muster here. (July 2019)

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