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Reel Review: Murder Mystery

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NETFLIX’s "Murder Mystery" brings Adam Sandler out of his production slump with a witty Jennifer Aniston as co-star in this Agatha Christie-type goofy comedy. PHOTO COURTESY OF NETFLIX

By Anna Husted EBS FILM CRITIC

Over the last four year, Adam Sandler’s career has been defined by a series of, well, terrible movies that are a result of an extensive acting and producing contract with online streaming powerhouse NETFLIX. Low points include “Sandy Wexler,” “The Ridiculous 6,” and “The Do-Over,” yet amongst these flops also includes one of the best films he’s been involved, “The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected),” and while he didn’t produce the latter, there is hope to be had.

Sandler and NETFLIX’s latest collaboration confirms the notion with “Murder Mystery”—finally, a Sandler-produced film I can get behind again.

“Murder Mystery” is centers on the Spitz couple, played by Sandler and the magnificent Jennifer Aniston, a married couple that never went on a honeymoon trip. Aniston’s Audrey is a bubbly, funny hairdresser from New York, while Sandler plays Nick, a deadbeat cop with bad aim. Here’s the crux of the story—Audrey believes Nick is a detective when in reality he failed his detective exam three times and didn’t have the heart to tell her about the final round of failure. To continue hiding his career secrets, he distracts her by finally booking the long-coveted honeymoon to Europe.

En route across the pond, Audrey meets Charles Cavendish, played by Luke Evans, a billionaire who invites the Spitzes on his private yacht in the Mediterranean. Cavendish’s entire family will also be in attendance, but it’s revealed they don’t exactly get along.

The first night of the cruise the patriarch of the family is found murdered after the vessel’s lights mysteriously cut. While the story and plot are clichés of the murder mystery genre, that doesn’t really matter because it’s about the laughs, as you may have guessed with Sandler at the helm.

Aniston’s comedic timing is perfectly engineered here—arguably better than Sandler’s. The pair exhibits performance chemistry, giving power to lines that aren’t necessarily funny. A portion of the plot’s humor rests on the fact that Audrey and Nick are pinned as the No. 1 suspects, goofily trying to solve the murder themselves in between shrimp cocktails and accidentally destroying centuries-old libraries.

In the climactic car chase scene, which, of course, there had to be, Audrey and Nick jump into a car to follow the bad guy only to find that it’s British made and Audrey is on the driver’s side, not the passenger’s. This joke plays off of stereotypical gender roles, but it’s successful because they are both surprised to be in the seats they are in. Regardless, Audrey takes the wheel like a pro.

While Sandler’s films appeal to some of the lower forms of comedy, they’re still funny and it’s fine to admit you like them, even the bad ones of the past. Roger Ebert critic Brian Tallerico calls “Murder Mystery” “reasonable escapism” measuring it better than the last few Sandler has produced for NETFLIX. But I’ll do “Murder Mystery” one better because it’s an Agatha Christie-type comedy. Who doesn’t love a good murder mystery and a good laugh?

“Murder Mystery” is now available for streaming on NETFLIX.

Anna Husted has a master’s in film studies from New York University. In Big Sky she can be found hiking a mountain or at the movies at Lone Peak Cinema. When not gazing at the silver screen or watching her new favorite TV show, she’s reading, fishing or roughhousing with her cat, Indiana Jones.

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