If you’re in the mood for an action movie, there’s the superb “John Wick: Chapter 4” in theaters. If you’re only looking for a Netflix streaming whodunit, there’s “Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery” just a click away. Or, it’s late or you’re hungover or doing laundry or just in need of background noise. Enter: the perfect movie, “Murder Mystery 2.”
Four years after the first blandly titled (dare we say meta?) take on Agatha Christie meets the “Vacation” movies, the sequel is back with plenty of “my wife” jokes and outlandish locations for an unassuming American couple to ruin. But damn if that couple isn’t charming.
Adam Sandler and Jennifer Aniston are back as Nick and Audrey Spitz, who have now started a private investigator agency in Brooklyn. The only problem? Their cases are dwindling and — so is the steaminess in their marriage. The Spitzes (or the “Shit-zes” as they’re called in Europe) are the type of couple you just know you’ll find at the IKEA Red Hook bickering about whether or not to buy Swedish meatballs while in line, and the everyman familiarity is laid on in just the right amount to not be as emotionally scarring as “The Wrong Missy.”
“Murder Mystery 2” is a slightly less overt excuse for Sandler and his pals to jet off to gorgeous locations (tropical private islands! Paris!) and definitely a more intact movie, tried and true to a three-act structure and the genre mystery formulas. It’s little winks, like the voiceover saying the couple are praying “for a miracle that someone close to them would be killed” to get their next big professional break that makes “Murder Mystery 2” a decent enough comedy of errors.
The bigger mistake would be to watch this movie outright. And yes, you read that correctly.
“Murder Mystery 2” knows you won’t be paying full attention, and that’s just fine with both the plot premise and the laidback lead characters. The Spitzes are just along for the ride, so why shouldn’t you be too? Odd jokes like flamingoes wearing diapers to not dirty the lawn with feces fall to the wayside. There’s no setup, no payoff; it’s just a random aside that is immediately forgotten, if even heard at all. And Sandler’s delivery is as though he knows all of this: He’s just on vacation, riffing on random fun facts.
The mystery at hand, despite its flimsy emotional development, is that returning character Maharajah (Adeel Akhtar) gets kidnapped on his wedding day. All signs point to his bride-to-be (Mélanie Laurent) being behind the ransom due to an ironclad pre-nuptial agreement. But Maharajah’s sister (Kuhoo Verma) and jealous ex (Jodie Turner-Smith) have their own motives, as well as a handful of other discardable suspects. The Spitzes are ready to jump on the case, until a MI6 hostage negotiator (Mark Strong) is called in.
“I’m married to this one so everything is a negotiation,” Sandler says, gesturing to Aniston, who essentially just responds with a smile and “oh honey!” every line. Get it? Marriage is like a hostage situation! Hardy har har. It’s the type of joke that your loud, sitcom-loving coworker from who inexplicably wears golf country club polos to the office would absolutely love.
And that’s who this movie is for: the uncle in the khaki shorts, the dad wearing white Adidas sneakers in a decidedly uncool way, the drunk twenty-something bro looking to cop a feel on a first date, and the couple who mirror the Spitzes in real-life. It’s Netflix streaming numbers gold.
“You’re so big,” Aniston later tells Sandler, who quips he hasn’t heard that since their honeymoon. It’s sex-related, but not sexy. It’s the the kind of talk that makes kids cover their ears at the dinner table for and beg their parents to stop. And Aniston and Sandler very well could be those typical parents.
Aniston, who is a sex icon in her own right, is believably nerfed, as the kids say, to come across like a relatable unassuming mother figure who just wants what’s best for her husband and their shared career. It’s honestly impressive how Sandler and Aniston perfectly embody the definition of “normalcy,” and for that, “Murder Mystery 2” will thrive in Netflix’s algorithm. It’s for everyone. And no one. “Murder Mystery 2” is the perfect background noise that Netflix has built an empire out of. Let the looped streaming begin.
Director Jeremy Garelick helms the film using a script by James Vanderbilt, who co-wrote “Scream VI” and “Zodiac.” Yes, “Zodiac,” one of the best films of the 21st century. Vanderbilt also penned the first “Murder Mystery” before joining the “Scream” franchise with the 2022 fifth film installment. There’s hints to something better with “Murder Mystery 2,” like an unexpected “Sleepless in Seattle”-inspired cameo by the hilarious Gillian Bell.
And that’s what someone could find frustrating about “Murder Mystery 2”: All the pieces are there. It’s a great screenwriter, a great director, two great stars. But it’s not a great movie…it’s just content to put on between doing laundry and taxes. “Murder Mystery 2” is the definition of what it means to Netflix and chill, and as Sandler and Aniston cheers over a Budweiser and (most likely) boxed wine in a private helicopter right before a cliffhanger ending, it’s clear this is the creatively empty well Netflix will keep coming back to. It’s just that easy.
“Murder Mystery 2” is now streaming on Netflix.