There is never any reason to watch an Adam Sandler movie, and I am including any of his so-called “classics.” Perhaps I am being uncharitable. Yet, outside of 50 First Dates (2004), you can keep the lot of them. At the same time, I have The Legionnaire to consider. If there is one thing for which you can credit Sandler, it is that he makes short movies. When you are purposely looking for something quick so that you can write a review and then eat dinner (my current state), then these are handy. It is also made all the more convenient by the fact that he seems to own Netflix, thus his titles are readily available. I mean, Murder Mystery (2019) could have been any of this other titles. I choose it out of a mild curiosity to see if anything has changed for this supposed comedic genius in these latter years. It does not look like it. Sad, really.
On the other hand, maybe Sandler’s Nick Spitz in Murder Mystery having a mustache is a departure from the norm? If so, that is pretty lame. Anyway, he is a New York City police officer who has failed his detective’s exam a few times. He knows the material, but freezes up when it is time to take the test. His latest setback comes on the day of his fifteenth wedding anniversary to his hair dresser wife, Audrey Spitz (Jennifer Anniston). We meet her in her salon spouting the typical guy stereotypes women talk about in these flicks, one of which is an accusation that Nick has no imagination. Of course, while this is happening, he is purchasing her a cheap greeting card and a $50 Amazon gift card to commemorate their nuptials, so maybe she has a point. Her big dream, though, is for him to follow through on a promise he made when they wed for them to go to Europe. Later that night, after dinner with some friends celebrating the occasion, she is “angry flossing,” as he puts it. The reason for her spiteful dental work is because she is annoyed that they still have not taken the trip. Upon her admitting this, he quickly sets aside his card and tells her the surprise he had been planning is that they are taking that dream vacation. He is also omitting the fact that he had not made detective, despite her assumptions. On the plane over, getting away from his loud snoring, she wanders into the posh first-class cabin. Before being kicked out, she is noticed by a handsome English nobleman, Charles Cavendish (Luke Evans). She strikes up a conversation with Charles before Nick finally awakens and comes to find her, she is agreeing for them to come on his family’s expensive yacht for the marriage of his billionaire uncle, Malcolm Quince (Terence Stamp), to Charles’ ex-fiancée, Suzi Nakamura (Shioli Katsuna). Initially they refuse, citing the strangeness of the invitation and their desire to have their own vacation. But when they see the rowdy tour bus they are to join, they quickly change their minds. There are a few other guests already on the boat, and they will be described as needed. The principal one, Malcolm, does not join them until they are out at sea, getting there by helicopter. When he does show up, it is to tell the few family and supposed close friends that they are all being cut out of his will, and that he is promptly signing a new document giving everything to Suzi. Before he can do so, the lights go out momentarily, and when they come back on Malcolm is lying dead on the floor with a ceremonial dagger in his chest. Since Nick is a cop, they all turn to him for advice. He tells them that they should call the International Criminal Police Organization (commonly known as Interpol), and that everyone should wait in their cabins until they dock in Monaco. Meanwhile, another murder occurs, Malcolm’s only legitimate son, Tobey Quince (David Walliams). When Interpol Inspector de la Croix (Dany Boon) boards, everyone tries to pin the deaths on the American strangers. As such, when Inspector de la Croix finally gets around to interviewing Audrey and Nick, he points out the suspiciousness of two people dying shortly after their arrival in their lives. Because of these suspicions, they are forced to stay in Monaco until they can prove their innocence. While in their hotel room, they start haphazardly putting the pieces of the case together. In the midst of this, they are summoned to the room of Sergei (Ólafur Darri Ólafsson), the bodyguard of Malcolm’s long-time friend Colonel Ulenga (John Kani). Sergei fills in Audrey and Nick about the family background, namely the existence of an illegitimate child. Before more can be said, Sergei is shot to death, and Audrey and Nick are once more on the run. Inspector de la Croix is after them, too, and Audrey hears him say on television that Nick is still a police sergeant. This is how she discovers Nick has been lying. From here, they go their separate ways for a little while. She gets picked up by Charles and taken to Lake Como, Italy, where he owns an estate, and his investigations lead him to same place. They make up quickly, too, while under fire, and attempt to chase down another assassin who manages to kill Suzi. Feeling they are out of options, they decide to go to Charles’ mansion, warning Inspector de la Croix ahead of time that would be their destination. Unfortunately, they find Charles dead there, too. From here, they start wildly speculating, using Audrey’s love of cheap detective novels to get the beautiful actress Grace Ballard (Gemma Arterton) to admit that she is the long-lost child of Malcolm and the one behind the deaths. The extra surprise comes when it is revealed that she had an accomplice: Formula One racecar driver Juan Carlos (Luis Gerardo Méndez). There is then a dumb chase scene before Juan Carlos is hit by the same bus in which the Spitz were supposed to be touring. In appreciation for their, er, efforts, Inspector de la Croix hands them train tickets for the Orient Express (of course, given the title), and we mercifully close.
While there is little interesting, in general, about Murder Mystery, I was ever so slightly piqued by Nick’s explanation of why people commit murder. According to him, there are three criteria that need to be met in order to have a motive: money, love, and revenge. He also contends throughout that people are simple, thus making the most obvious answer the right one. While this last bit proves incorrect, as much as I might not want to admit it, he is right that people are simple. They are also complicated. That might not make much sense, but then again only God will ever truly understand us. I also find that when people start trying to complicate their lives that is when bad things happen. Take our suspects in the film, sans the Spitz. God’s first commandment is to love. Yet, it is not Malcolm the person for which they have affection, but a self-centered desire to get their hands on his money. That is why Grace and Juan Carlos come up with this convoluted murder scheme. When was the last time you ever heard of such a thing working in real life? This is why I admire people with deep connections with God. They might tell you that their lives are far from easy, but that is also not the point. There are so many things beyond our control and understanding that if we could just let some of them go and leave them to God, our lives would be less complicated. And perhaps there would be fewer murders.
I was already rolling my eyes twenty minutes into Murder Mystery. I understand this is a comedy, but the concept of these two ending up in this situation seems too outlandish. Yet, this might be simply my own tastes. As stated, I am not a fan of Adam Sandler. At the same time, there is nothing too objectionable here. Make of that statement what you will.