Have you met anyone in person who has said that they are a big fan of the 2019 “vacation mystery” film “Murder Mystery,” starring Adam Sandler, Jennifer Aniston, Luke Evans, Terence Stamp, Gemma Arterton, David Walliams, John Kani, Shioli Kutsuna, and Adeel Akhtar? I haven’t. Back then, I was aware of the film’s existence. I saw the trailer. It didn’t pique my interest. So, I moved on to greener pastures. Therefore, you can only imagine how surprised I was when Netflix announced that “Murder Mystery 2” was on the way. And as its release date came closer, I mustered up the courage to watch the first one. As soon as the credits rolled, any and all memories of actually looking at the screen and viewing it were wiped from my brain. Hence, it’s safe to say that my expectations from the sequel were low. Still, I took the dive, and I have come to the conclusion that “Murder Mystery 2” is good.
Directed by Jeremy Garelick, “Murder Mystery 2” is centered around the Spitzes, Audrey (Jennifer Aniston) and Nick (Adam Sandler). Apparently, after the successful (I use that term loosely) detective work in Italy, the couple has left their day jobs and is working full-time as detectives. But that’s obviously not going very well, thereby plunging their finances and their relationship into new depths. When they are about to reach a breaking point, they get a call from the Maharajah Vikram (Adeel Akhtar) to tell them that he’s getting married and they’ve to embark on an all-expenses-paid trip to attend it. Of course, the Spitzes take him up on his offer and travel to his private island. That’s where we meet the new players: Vikram’s fiancé Claudette (Mélanie Laurent), Vikram’s ex-girlfriend and Claudette’s friend, Countess Sekou (Jodie Turner-Smith), Sekou’s sidekick Imani (Zurin Villanueve), Vikram’s sister Saira (Kuhoo Verma), and Vikram’s friend Francisco (Enrique Arce). Colonel Ulenga (John Kani) from the first movie is there as well. Things go fine until the night of the wedding, because that’s when Vikram’s bodyguard Louis (Larry Myo Leong) is killed and Vikram is abducted. Although the Sptizes offer to help, Ulenga calls upon Connor Miller (Mark Strong) to lead the case.
James Vanderbilt’s writing in “Murder Mystery 2” isn’t a massive improvement in comparison to the original. He still spends a lot of time on unfunny jokes and shedding unnecessary doubt on every single character in the screenplay. Weirdly enough, this time, he increases the creepiness factor of the franchise by introducing Francisco, who is constantly horny for Audrey, and gives Inspector Delacroix (Danny Boon) some kind of an itching kink for no reason, which is also satiated by Audrey. I don’t know the reason behind this particular joke, and I’m sure if there is one, it’s not good. With all that said, the movie truly comes alive when the narrative shifts to Paris, and Nick and Audrey enter the kidnappers’ van in the hopes of getting Vikram by giving them the ransom money. To everyone’s surprise, Nick springs into action, and Audrey joins him too, and the fight that ensues soon after that is actually fantastic. Sandler and Aniston’s acting chops, Garelick’s direction, Bojan Bazelli’s cinematography, Tom Costain and Brian M. Robinson’s editing, the action choreography, and the work by the stunt performers all come together to deliver a sequence that can rival anything from “The Gray Man” or “Red Notice,” i.e., two of the biggest Netflix action vehicles.
That is not all, though. There are two other moments, one where Nick and Audrey have to escape from a burning building and another where they’ve got to fight the main villain on the Eiffel Tower, and both of them are genuinely good. The CGI, VFX, and special effects are pretty competent. The physical comedy and the jokes during the action sequences are quite hilarious. Nick’s inability to shoot properly should’ve gotten repetitive at this point, but it works. The switches between Sandler and Aniston’s stunt double are noticeable only if you’re pausing to look at them. When everything is in motion, it’s seamless, thereby making the fighting sequences incredibly engaging. The colors and the textures in every frame of “Murder Mystery 2” pop, which is something I can’t say about the first film. So, it’s clear that someone has listened to the criticism leveled against “Murder Mystery” and worked on it. And, yes, I know that the aforementioned praises are for the bare minimum we should expect from a motion picture. But since the bar is so low, if a Netflix film is acting like an actual film, then that needs to be highlighted so that they can continue doing it instead of producing stuff that looks like wet cement.
Coming to the performances in “Murder Mystery 2,” everyone is perfect for this goofy, Looney Tunes-esque, and wacky action comedy. So, kudos to the casting directors, Maribeth Fox and Laura Rosenthal, for that. I didn’t quite feel the chemistry between Adam Sandler and Jennifer Aniston in the first movie. But in this one, they are really playing off each other. They do seem like a couple who have been together for 16 years. They usually express their love for each other in odd and relatable ways. However, when they’ve to do stuff that two stars usually do in a big-budget blockbuster, they pull that off smoothly as well. Jodie Turner-Smith gives a standout performance. She effortlessly exudes a sense of regality and power. The ever-dependable Mark Strong is amazing, as usual. This legendary man is either naturally charming, or his accent plays some kind of trick on our brains. Mélanie Laurent is a little underused. But it’s possible that I feel that way because I’m a fan of her work. Just go and watch Oxygen,” and you’ll understand what I’m talking about. Zurin Villanueva, John Kani, Kuhoo Verma, Dany Boon, Adeel Akhtar, and Enrique Arce have their moments, and they make the most of them. Jillian Bell’s cameo is really funny. She had me guffawing pretty loudly.
I am sure that hardcore fans of “Murder Mystery,” who watched and rewatched the movie so much that it got a sequel, are going to love the hell out of “Murder Mystery 2.” And—I can’t believe I’m about to write what I’m about to write—I highly recommend this Adam Sandler and Jennifer Aniston action comedy to all those who aren’t fans of the first film or haven’t even watched it. Yes, you actually don’t need to watch the first film in order to enjoy the sequel because it does a decent job of recapping Nick and Audrey’s journey and then launches you into their latest adventure. Of course, it’s not a masterpiece. However, it’s 90 solid minutes of fun and action. If you’re in the mood for that, then that’s exactly what you’ll get. And maybe, just like me, you’ll be looking forward to the sequel as this film ends on a really cool cliffhanger. I hope that the people behind this franchise realize that if they go to physical locations, create actual sets, bring in good action directors, invest in decent visual effects, and allow their actors to partake in the stunts, it will make for quality action cinema. So, my only request to Netflix is to focus on the “action” aspect of the action-comedy in “Murder Mystery 3,” and I’ll be there to watch it as soon as it hits the streaming platform.