A by-the-numbers Adam Sandler film? What are the odds? Well, Murder Mystery is finally the time where being too connected to genre tropes should make sense. to be perfectly frank, while still a bland film, Murder Mystery is luckily not one of Sandler's worst offerings (thank God). It stars his good friend Jennifer Aniston, and the two play a struggling couple finally setting out on their honeymoon many years after the wedding.
Sandler is a detective wannabe that is only an officer that has failed his exams multiple times. Aniston is obsessed with murder mystery novels. Together, these two are pseudo experts that actually get by with what little they have going for them. It actually isn't a terrible premise, though the film makes a few mistakes that do cost the satire some points.
The main faux pas is the fact that, once again, a Sandler film uses typical Sandler jokes instead of actually mocking the genre the film is inspired by. I actually do not recall any of the jokes actually satirizing murder mysteries whatsoever. You have a moment where a witness tries to take the murder weapon (a dagger) out of a corpse, only to put it back in to stop the bleeding. Does that actually play on the genre in any way, though? I read it as a joke that plays with the elements of a whodunnit, but it doesn't quite play on the element in any creative way. You can see many jokes like this riddled throughout.
Next, I think it was a bad idea to even have the story take place off of the original crime scene at all. The whole fun of a mystery like this (even a satirical one) is that you are trapped in a room full of suspects (or people you simply don't like). Imagine the hijinks that would have boiled if these lunatics were all forced to make nice during such an ugly time? The jokes may even write themselves at this point, given the eclectic cast of characters (some tolerable, some insufferable).
While this film is a miss, I do have to give credit (even to a low brow Sandler comedy). The gang actually tried to keep you guessing with the mystery element. The criminal isn't blatantly obvious for a good duration of the film, and if there is one slight plot device that the film effectively mocks, it's the killing off of the person you thought was guilty (not every time, but some times).
This positive elevates Murder Mystery to a "meh". At least there is an effort -- even though it may be slight -- to create a parody that somewhat works. That doesn't make it any good, but at least it isn't The Ridiculous 6 (then again, nothing can ever be that bad I hope). The entire film can be reflected upon the final joke: a tribute to an iconic murder mystery, and a shrug saying "well, here we go again!". The joke makes sense, and you will get it, but that doesn't make it funny. It has all of the elements of a joke, but it just doesn't land. That's Murder Mystery: an honest effort that you may forget about once you toss on your next film from the Netflix queue.
Andreas Babiolakis has a Masters degree in Film and Photography Preservation and Collections management from Ryerson University, as well as a Bachelors degree in Cinema Studies from York University. His favourite times of year are the Criterion Collection flash sales and the annual Toronto International Film Festival.