Murder Mystery 2 is another tale of two halves: one that’s awful and one that’s pretty good. A sequel to the Adam Sandler and Jennifer Aniston starring 2019 film – which was charming and light fun on the whole – Murder Mystery 2 takes an unconscionably long time wading through unfunny, lazy filler and set up before finally morphing into a madcap romp that’s as modestly entertaining as its predecessor. The biggest problem with Murder Mystery 2 is that saying there’s a good half and a bad half is literal. By the time it starts having some actual fun and arriving at something close to a point, the movie is well past the halfway mark.
Sandler and Aniston return as Nick and Audrey Spitz, a married couple who’ve taken what they learned about sleuthing on their previous vacation and decided to parlay their newfound skills into a business as private investigators. The business is failing, with former beautician Audrey taking the steps towards becoming a formally trained P.I. more seriously than ex-cop Nick. Just as they’re trying to figure out their next steps, their outlandish and wealthy friend Vik (Adeel Akhtar) calls to invite them on an all expenses paid vacation to a French island where he’s about to get married to his new love, Claudette (Melanie Laurent). History repeats itself when Vik gets kidnapped during the pre-wedding welcome reception and his new bodyguard is murdered. Evidence is planted implicating Nick and Audrey in the crime, but they’re obviously innocent. Together they try to figure out which member of Vik’s inner circle has the biggest motivation to kidnap and murder.
Like most whodunits, Murder Mystery 2 has plenty of suspects, but few tangible moving pieces. Director Jeremy Garelick (The Wedding Ringer, The Binge) and returning screenwriter James Vanderbilt (Zodiac, the Andrew Garfield Spider-man films, the two most recent Scream sequels) take their sweet time getting around to the inciting incident, instead offering up limp, endless, and uninspired jokes about Nick and Audrey’s boorish American manners. Then once things happen, Murder Mystery 2 takes forever to spell out why all of the primary suspects would’ve committed the crime, and most of the reasons take seconds to explain, but are drawn out to form unfunny set pieces around the reveals. There isn’t even much to look at other than the scenery, thanks to some skittish editing decisions, no real sense of style, and far too much cut rate CGI where it shouldn’t have been used in the first place. (The money spent to show wild animals wearing diapers – a gag that goes nowhere at all – could’ve probably funded an entirely different movie on its own.)
Most of the film’s twists and plot points are heavily telegraphed in advance (except for one interesting wrinkle that’s kind of blown off as a time killing swerve that has minimal bearing on the plot), and Murder Mystery 2 is largely saved by the effortless and likeable chemistry between Sandler and Aniston. They are trying their best, and the stacked supporting cast – including Mark Strong as an ace former MI-6 agent turned investigator, Jodie Turner-Smith as an arrogant countess, and returning cast members Akhtar, Dany Boon, and John Kani – are pulling their weight. But none of the first half of Murder Mystery 2 is funny or exciting.
Once Garelick shifts the action away from the island and to the streets of Paris, Murder Mystery 2 picks up exponentially. There are a fair number of chuckles, two admittedly big laughs, and a great action sequence involving a fight taking place in the back of a speeding van. The mystery still isn’t all that great, but Nick and Audrey’s quest to clear their name and find the criminal mastermind – leaving a trail of inadvertent death and destruction in their wake – at least has some juice to it. Murder Mystery 2 even builds to a grand finale that’s inventive and exciting.
But all of those good things take up less than 45 minutes of a 90 minute movie; one that feels like it has been trimmed down to that length from something even longer. On the whole, it might leave viewers feeling pleased sheerly by going out on a high note, but it’s never enough to erase the feeling that the first half is tough to get through. If this one is a hit, there will probably be more of these, so let’s hope that the filmmakers and producers make something a bit closer to the first film rather than the second one next time out.
Murder Mystery 2 is now streaming on Netflix.
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