Murder Mystery 2 Has Less Mystery, More Murder, and Enough Laughs to Keep Adam Sandler’s Netflix Deal Alive

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Somewhere in time, Adam Sandler’s Netflix deal became a balm for our sick and dying era. What once seemed like the logical conclusion to the Sandman’s ubiquity, his stardom stabilizing to settle in for the long haul, now feels like a good, long hug. Where once pals like Rob Schneider were called on for The Ridiculous 6 to do a more offensive version of the “you can do eet” guy in 2015, now pals like Rob Schneider are given a chill cameo and exquisite urine-based jokes in Hubie Halloween alongside the entire Happy Madison playhouse, everyone involved clearly just getting along and having fun together. 

At Netflix, Sandler’s no longer beholden to box office, only to the decades of success behind him, so he remains omnipresent and effortless—once a bad thing, now the best thing. Somewhere in time, Sandler intuited that what we wanted, maybe what we needed, were warm-hearted mid-budget comedies about a nice guy with a weird baby voice (Sandy Wexler), or another nice guy with a weird baby voice (Hubie Halloween), or a dopey Brooklyn couple called Nick (Sandler) and Audrey Spitz (Jennifer Aniston) who solve international murders. These high-concept farces are dopamine hits to the American cerebellum, the weird baby voice our shared genetic memory mixed with whiffs of home, and family, and all the nostalgia you can stomach. Together we remember fondly the nice guy with a weird baby voice who sat in a bubble bath and demanded a swan stop looking at him. He made the shampoo and conditioner fight. I can’t think of much else foundational to my, and our country’s, sense of humor. 

Pre-pandemic Murder Mystery, premiering not that long before its more prestige-laden genre cousin Knives Out, followed Nick and Audrey aboard the yacht of fabulously wealthy Charles Cavendish (Luke Evans) only to become embroiled in a Europe-trotting whodunit. We meet a riotous cast of deranged rich people—including the party boy Maharaj (Adeel Akhtar), the one-handed, one-eyed Colonel (John Kani) and the chain-smoking dartboard of French stereotypes, Inspector de la Croix (Danny Boon), all three back for the sequel—and witness Nick and Audrey clear their names to figure out who killed the majority of the characters in the movie. Nick, an NY cop who can’t pass his detective’s exam, and Audrey, a hair stylist obsessed with pulp mystery paperbacks, blunder their way all blue-collar-like through the realm of the hyper-wealthy, but Sandler and Aniston have such endearing chemistry that the cosplaying never goes much further than supporting the film’s vision: What a kind world for salt-of-the-earth folk; what a brutally violent world for the elite and powerful. 

This time around, Murder Mystery 2 isn’t much of an actual murder mystery at all, less interested in the deductive skills of the Spitzes than in their indefatigable charm. In the few years since the first film, Nick and Audrey have quit their jobs in favor of the American dream— small business ownership—hoping to set themselves up as a private detective duo. Business, of course, isn’t doing so well, so it comes as yet another remarkable coincidence that their friend the Maharaj is getting married, and they’re invited to his luxury beach wedding. It isn’t long before Audrey and Nick are pulled into a suspicious rivalry between the Maharaj’s fiancé, Claudette Joubert (Mélanie Laurent), and ex-fiancé, the Countess (Jodie Turner-Smith), as well as into whatever bad blood there is between the Maharaj and his sister Saira (Kuhoo Verma). Meanwhile, an incredibly horny man (Enrique Arce) refuses to stop propositioning Audrey, as do a lot of men Audrey and Nick meet, the whole façade of their Dumb American schtick surprisingly not wearing thin even as it becomes less and less believable that Aniston can play middle-class. In the wake of winning the Mark Twain Prize, Sandler has transcended his Everyman status to be an ideal, his rapport with his co-star about as flawlessly, wonderfully, dependably pleasant as these things can get.

Whereas newly appointed Happy Madison director Kyle Newacheck led Murder Mystery with an earnest thriller’s edge, Rupert Gregson-Williams’ score going sincerely hard to sell whatever genre bonafides it could, also-newly appointed Happy Madison director Jeremy Garelick doubles down on the pulp genre pastiche, casually using the pretense of the movie’s title to present a Tarantino-lite smorgasbord of adventure and action and exploitation homages. Beyond the car chase of the first film, here the Spitzes survive one spectacular set piece after another, giving Sandler the opportunity to stage a fully fledged fight scene—Nick apparently skilled in martial arts, because why not—and all the plot threads to come together at the Eiffel Tower. Inspector de la Croix returns, slightly French-er and therefore slightly kinkier, a new ally in Nick and Audrey’s quest to clear their names from the latest crime (which I guess is technically a murder), the whole world seemingly memoryholing their previous identical framing. How can they be once again mistaken for being world-class criminals? Doesn’t matter! Mark Strong enters the film basically playing his character from The Brothers Grimsby and all one’s brain does is respond autonomously: Mark Strong, welcome! Your severe professionalism is a hilarious foil to Nick’s schlubby street smarts!

Like Wes Anderson, Adam Sandler collects character actors, people we love to see working with Sandler who undoubtedly love working with Sandler. If the Murder Mystery series swerves further and further from its original premise, fewer and fewer murder mysteries occupying the Spitzes’ time, it’s still got the whodunit at heart: A big cast coming together to get along and have fun. It’s undeniably infectious. Release a Murder Mystery movie alongside a Benoit Blanc flick every couple years. Pretend to really needle the rich as they erode every facet of our existences. Give us something to count on.

Director: Jeremy Garelick
Writers: James Vanderbilt
Starring: Adam Sandler, Jennifer Aniston, Adeel Akhtar, John Kani, Danny Boon, Jodie Turner-Smith, Kuhoo Verma, Enrique Arce
Release Date: March 31, 2023 (Netflix)

Dom Sinacola is a Portland-based writer and editor. He writes a weekly blog on Werner Herzog movies, The Werner Herzblog. He’s also on Twitter.