Synopsis: Full-time detectives Nick and Audrey struggle to get their private eye agency off the ground. They find themselves at the center of international abduction when their friend Maharaja, is kidnapped at his lavish wedding.
Stars: Adam Sandler, Jennifer Aniston, Mark Strong, Mélanie Laurent, Jodie Turner-Smith, John Kani, Kuhoo Verma, Enrique Arce, Zurin Villanueva, Dany Boon, Adeel Akhtar
Director: Jeremy Garelick
Running Length: 89 minutes
TMMM Score: (5.5/10)
Review: While it won’t ever be remembered as the most significant hit for either of them, 2011’s Just Go with It introduced undeniable screen chemistry for superstars Adam Sandler and Jennifer Aniston. The slight comedy is one of the better in Sandler’s run of par-baked rom-coms that were wafer thin but brought in huge box office dollars, no doubt aided by Aniston’s dry delivery and a fun cameo from Nicole Kidman as a free spirit in paradise. So, it wasn’t a massive surprise the leads worked together again eight years later in the summer Netflix feature Murder Mystery.
Arriving at the right time for the film to be a success, the film found the A-listers as a married couple that reached a plateau in their relationship but found their groove once they became involved with international treachery on a European vacation. Farcically continuing to implicate themselves along the way, the duo became semi-sleuths while they evaded the authorities and narrowed down the villain from a diverse array of suspects. Beating the original Knives Out to the punch by a full five months, Murder Mystery gave audiences a taste of what they could expect from the return of the whodunit. It wasn’t grand entertainment, but it did entertain.
The way sequels get churned out nowadays, I’m surprised it took four years for Murder Mystery 2 to find its way onto Netflix. Still, here we are with another harmless romp from screenwriter James Vanderbilt (who wrote the new Scream and Scream VI in the interim) that takes a concerning while to re-establish its charm. Mired in fuddy-duddy exposition that weighs down the opening stretch, once we settle in, there’s little to keep Sandler and Aniston’s follow-up caper from winning us over by its breathless pace alone.
Returning home after putting their first case to rest, Audrey (Aniston, Office Christmas Party) and Nick (Sandler, Hotel Transylvania) decided to go into business for themselves and start a private detective agency. Years later, it’s not turning a profit, and the same marital issues are beginning to rise to the surface again. Good thing that their old friend, the Maharajah (Adeel Akhtar, Enola Holmes), calls to invite them to his island wedding, an all-expense paid trip they leave for immediately. The weekend affair will end with the Maharajah marrying the beautiful, but maybe suspicious?, Claudette (Mélanie Laurent, Oxygen). However, before they can exchange vows, the royal is abducted for ransom, and a dead body is left behind…the first of several cadavers of characters we’ll be introduced to.
It’s not long before Nick and Audrey are on the run again, falsely incriminated in the nefarious plot by real-world technology involving deep fakes (hey, how about that recent picture of the Pope in a designer puffer jacket?) and finding themselves in the convex of double and triple crosses. Whom can they trust? A scheming Countess (Jodie Turner-Smith, Queen & Slim) and her sidekick (Zurin Villanueva, recently in MN as the lead in Tina: The Tina Turner Musical), a famous secret agent (Mark Strong, 1917), the Maharajah’s overlooked sister (Kuhoo Verma, The Big Sick) or head of security Colonel Ulenga (John Kani, Black Panther) who made a considerable sacrifice before for his boss?
New director Jeremy Garelick (The Wedding Ringer) takes over for Kyle Newacheck, resulting in a mixed bag of success. The sequel feels on par with the first, eschewing the oft-told rules that say subsequent installments to a series must be more extensive and impressive. Fans will show up for the stars, not the intricate plot (if you can’t figure this one out, stay away from the complicated stylings of Matlock) or the impressive production design (Sandler and Aniston live in an apartment I swear Netflix has used in at least three other films they produced). Murder Mystery 2 is an ordinary sequel that gets everyone, including the audience, from Point A to Point B without too much trouble and then quietly says goodnight. Sometimes, that’s OK, and if you go in expecting another Knives Out film, you will be disappointed.