Four years ago, Nick and Audrey Spitz (Adam Sandler and Jennifer Aniston) solved a convoluted murder mystery and became minor celebrities. Nick quit his job with the NYPD. Audrey quit her job as a hairdresser. They opened up their own private detective agency.
Unfortunately, as a narrator explains to us at the start of Murder Mystery 2, things haven’t gone smoothly for Nick and Audrey. They’ve struggled to establish themselves as detectives. In fact, Nick doesn’t even have a P.I. license because he has yet to pass the exam and he balks at having to actually study criminology. While Audrey tries to convince him to, at the very least, read a book on kidnapping, Nick is more concerned with coming up with cute business cards. His big idea to combine the traditional business card with floss and a razor. Personally, I wouldn’t want to use a business card to take care of my teeth but maybe that’s just me.
When Nick and Audrey are invited to an exclusive wedding, it’s a chance for them to reacquaint themselves with Vikram (Adeel Akhatar) and Colonel Ulenga (John Kani), both of whom were featured in the first Murder Mystery. When Vikram is kidnapped and one of his bodyguards is murdered, it’s a chance to Nick and Audrey to once again prove that they’re capable of solving a crime. When former MI6 agent-turned-security consultant Captain Miller (Mark Strong) literally emerges from the sea and takes over the investigation, it’s a chance to Audrey to meet one of her heroes and for Nick to get a little jealous. And when the action moves to France, it’s an excuse for the film’s cast and crew to hang out in Paris for a few weeks.
I enjoyed the first Murder Mystery, which was a surprisingly sweet and funny comedy that showcased Sandler and Aniston’s chemistry while also make good use of Sandler in one of his more likable comedic roles. Like all Sandler characters, Nick may be something of a manchild but he’s not deliberately destructive. He means well. The first film’s mystery was enjoyably convoluted and a lot of the humor came from just how out of place Sandler and Aniston were in an Agatha Christie-style whodunit.
Murder Mystery 2, unfortunately, it not quite as much fun as the first film. A huge part of the problem is that Nick and Audrey are no longer amateur detectives who are both shocked and secretly thrilled to be solving an actual murder. Now, they’re professional (if somewhat incompetent) detectives. The first film had a sweet subtext about Sandler trying to prove that he was as good a detective as thought he was. He had something to prove, to both his wife and to himself. In the second film, the emphasis is more on action than humor. Suddenly, Sandler and Aniston are engaging in high-speed car chases and battles atop the Eiffel Tower. It all feels a bit mechanical and, much as with his direction of The Binge, director Jeremy Garelick often seems to just be going through the motions.
On the plus side, Sandler and Aniston still have their chemistry and both of them still know how to make an otherwise corny joke work. Jennifer Aniston gets to wear a lot of really pretty outfits and Adam Sandler gets a memorable scene where he tries to convince himself that he can jump over a moat. There’s a genuinely funny moment towards the end of the film, when a character unrelated to the mystery randomly shows up and interrupts a tense showdown. Even though I wish the film had done a bit more with character, Mark Strong also seems to be having parodying his own image. There are moments of Murder Mystery 2 that are actually pretty amusing, though I think chuckled more than I actually laughed out loud. Ultimately, though, Murder Mystery 2 is rather forgettable.
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