Netflix and the Case of the Declining Content.
So, apparently 30 MILLION people have tuned in to watch the latest Netflix original movie, Murder Mystery (2019). No shade towards stars Adam Sandler and Jennifer Aniston, but a viewership that high seems a tad unbelievable. Especially for an action-comedy whose action and comedy turned out to be rather bland. Raising their number of viewers to 30 million and one, I watched Murder Mystery over the weekend and realized that the only real mystery worth investigating is this: how does a movie with such an ambitious premise turn out to be so blah?
In Murder Mystery, stagnant New York couple Nick and Audrey Spitz take a long-awaited honeymoon to Europe, a trip 15 years in the making. When Audrey meets the handsome and wealthy Charles Cavendish on their flight, he invites the couple to vacation on his yacht. Soon Nick and Audrey meet a host of suspicious characters and become entangled in a crime that marks them as suspects as well.
First things first, I have a problem with the title. Come on people, could we really not get more creative than calling a murder mystery, Murder Mystery? What’s next? A project from Paul Feig called Comedy? I mean, I’d still totally watch that because I love Paul Feig, but you get the point I’m trying to make. The obvious and uninspired title is the perfect representation of what to expect from Murder Mystery as a whole. Filled with tired “bits” and dated jokes, Murder Mystery feels more like an episode of a 90s sitcom or one of Sandler’s comedies from the early 2000s. A large portion, if not all, of the comedy derives from either “this person doesn’t speak English properly,” or “my spouse is inattentive and doesn’t listen to me!” Apparently the movie thought that watching Sandler and Aniston’s characters complain about their marital problems is why you clicked play, and decided to fill the runtime with their banter. Seriously, it made me never want to get married.
Sandler and Aniston have a decent chemistry and when they’re embracing the campy silliness of the murder mystery genre, their scenes together are enjoyable enough. Murder Mystery briefly shines when it’s poking fun at its subject matter, but those scenes are few and far between. Any time the movie tried to be serious or decided to fall back on the “marriage is hard” shtick, the story came to a screeching halt. Honestly, I blame Adam Sandler. There would be scenes where I was surprisingly engaged in the story and then it cut back to him and I audibly groaned. If you could replace Sandler with someone like Paul Rudd, because duh, or even cut the husband character completely, this would probably be a laugh out loud Jennifer Aniston comedy. I mean, wouldn’t you watch a movie where single Jennifer Aniston goes to Europe by herself and then partners up with a dashing Luke Evans to solve a mystery? Yeah you would! Maybe that’s a bit harsh on Sandler, but his performance reads as someone who’s barely even trying. It’s like he showed up to work each day with the goal of putting in as little effort as possible. Meanwhile as Cavendish, Evans is chewing all the scenery and committing to the character that’s a delight to watch. Sorry Sandler. Evans is the leading man this movie needed.
I really like the idea of doing a comedic take on the murder mystery genre. Hello, Clue (1985) is one of the funniest comedies of all time and if you haven’t, I beg beg you to check it out. But what makes Clue work is that it’s a flat-out farce that never takes itself too seriously while still being an engaging thriller. Murder Mystery feels the need to bring up Nick and Audrey’s marriage every few minutes rather than devote any time to actually solving the mystery. Seriously, the amount of detective work the pair do is shockingly little. Which is a bummer because half the fun of watching or reading a mystery is putting the clues together and trying to solve it for yourself. Murder Mystery lays none of the necessary groundwork and instead just tells you what happened in a last-minute scene of exposition at the movie’s end.
Sure, there are some surprising reveals, but they have no impact because the characters just tell you about them instead of allowing you to piece them together fro yourself, y’know? It’s so uneventful that you’re left not really caring who the culprit is, which is just about the biggest mistake you can make when it comes to mysteries. Maybe if the filmmakers had spent more time on creating an engaging mystery and less time working in product placements for Claritin and Allegra, this movie could have been saved. Maybe.
With a more clever story, more hilarious jokes and a more compelling cast, Murder Mystery would be fine but unfortunately, it doesn’t have very much going for it. It’s certainly not the worst movie I’ve ever seen, but there’s just so much better content to enjoy. From Netflix, from this cast and from the genre itself. If you want to see a cast of kooky characters get into hijinks while solving a mystery, watch Clue. If you want to see a married couple get in over their heads in an action-packed adventure, watch Date Night (2010). Both are fantastic movies that are head and shoulders above Murder Mystery. This is a whodunnit that will only leave you asking, “who cares?”
Are you one of the 30 million people who have seen Murder Mystery? What did you think?
Let me know in the comments or on social media!