Say this for the latest of Adam Sandler’s collaborations with Netflix, a string of pictures that began with the much-hated The Ridiculous 6: At least it wants to be classy. Decked out in expensive-looking clothes and dropping anchor in Monte Carlo, it transplants a pair of blue-collar New Yorkers into an Agatha Christie-style mystery, complete with a foreign colonel, a maharaja and a lord … no, make that a viscount.
Unfortunately, production value and marquee names are all we get in Kyle Newacheck’s Murder Mystery, a film whose script offers less enjoyment than the average game of Clue. (Can screenwriter James Vanderbilt really have co-written Zodiac and Truth?) Sandler and co-star Jennifer Aniston deliver middling marital banter that might, in a crowded opening-weekend theater, earn an occasional chuckle; in the living room, though, expect lots of dead air.
Murder on the Bore-ient Express.
Sandler plays Nick Spitz, a mediocre cop who can’t pass the exam to become a detective, but pretends to his wife Audrey (Aniston) that he got the promotion long ago. Audrey’s a hairdresser whose salon buzzes with a thinly imagined take on female dissatisfaction: stylists and patrons bemoaning their husbands’ failure to woo them with romantic gestures. No surprise, then, that Nick intends to give Audrey a $50 gift card for their 15th anniversary — or that, when she gripes about never getting the big vacation he promised long ago, Nick pretends he’d planned to surprise her with just that. So it’s off to Europe for a budget bus tour.
Sneaking out of coach on the long flight, Audrey meets suave Charles Cavendish (Luke Evans) in the first class bar. As aristocrats are wont to do, Charles invites the couple to join him on his family’s yacht for a cruise through the Mediterranean. He needs a diversion, as this is a family voyage celebrating the marriage of his multi-billionaire uncle (Terence Stamp) to the young woman (Shioli Kutsuna’s Suzi) who until recently was Charles’ own fiancee. Surely adding Nick and his cargo shorts to the ship’s formalwear-clad elites couldn’t make things any more awkward?
The Spitzes try to keep their composure as they take in the yacht’s Lifestyles of the Rich & Famous vibe, being introduced to that maharaja, Vikram (Adeel Akhtar); to an infamous African military man (John Kani); to a Formula One driver (Luis Gerardo Méndez) who speaks no English; and to movie star Grace Ballard (Gemma Arterton), whose presence flusters Nick. Then Cavendish’s uncle is killed in one of those lights-out drawing room scenes that leaves everyone a suspect. For reasons nobody tries to make the least bit convincing, French detectives decide that the Spitzes — the only ones with nothing to gain from the murder — did the deed. So husband and wife go on the lam while trying to solve the mystery themselves.
The ostensibly frantic business that follows includes hiding under people’s hotel-room beds; a vertiginous escape via a building ledge many floors above the pavement; and the requisite narrow-streets car chase in which a novice somehow outmaneuvers a professional racer. As it cobbles its plot together out of so many familiar tropes, you might expect the filmmakers to have brainpower left over for something new in the way of banter or plot twists. No such luck.
Though supporting actors appear to be having some fun playing their versions of Colonel Mustard, Mrs. Peacock, et al, only one really earns an occasional smile — Akhtar, whose character is just a London club bro dressed up as royalty. Others are mostly window dressing in a tale as generic, and as dull, as its title.
Production company: Happy Madison Productions
Cast: Adam Sandler, Jennifer Aniston, Luke Evans, Gemma Arterton, Shioli Kutsuna, Adeel Akhtar, Luis Gerardo Méndez, Dany Boon, John Kani, Olafur Darri Olaffson, Terence Stamp
Director: Kyle Newacheck
Screenwriter: James Vanderbilt
Producers: Allen Covert, Tripp Vinson, James D. Stern, A.J. Dixx, James Vanderbilt
Executive producers: Barry Bernardi, Douglas Hansen, Beth Kono
Director of photography: Amir Mokri
Editor: Tom Costain
Composer: Rupert Gregson-Williams
Rated PG-13, 97 minutes