‘Murder Mystery’ sets new low bar for film

Wednesday, June 19, 2019 - 12:13pm

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“Murder Mystery” is “Murder on the Orient Express,” if Kenneth Branagh was replaced by Adam Sandler (“Big Daddy”). I have never been sold on Adam Sandler’s acting. He plays only one character: washed-up frat boy years past their prime. Sandler’s insecure grasp on the concept of masculinity shines through in all of his films in which sophomoric humor abounds. When is Adam Sandler going to grow up? It’s 2019, and if I’m going to watch a man in his 50s pursue villains, I’d prefer Daniel Craig (“Spectre”) to Adam Sandler.

Directed by Kyle Newacheck (“Game Over, Man!”), “Murder Mystery” is a wrong-place-wrong-time story for Nick and Audrey (Jennifer Aniston, “Dumplin’”). Nick, an NYPD sergeant and three-time detective exam flunker, takes Audrey, a hairdresser, on a surprise trip to Europe for their fifteenth anniversary. The trip is a surprise even for him, as he pretends to have planned the adventure long in advance after Audrey questions him about the vacation that he had promised her on their wedding day. En route, Audrey wanders to the first class bar and meets millionaire playboy Charles Cavendish (Luke Evans, “Beauty and the Beast”) who invites Nick and Audrey to join a family celebration on his billionaire uncle’s yacht.

Long story short, yacht party ends in a double homicide. Three subsequent murders occur before the killers are found. Between the initial dagger-plunge and final poisoning, Nick and Audrey go through the motions: Unhappy couple finds themselves in a particularly gruesome quagmire, must work together to untangle themselves from the mess, see the good in one another once again. Again, I reiterate the fact that it’s 2019, and I’d like a fresh story here and there. The only diamond to be found in this rough is the climactic car chase, in which Nick and Audrey tail one of the killers in a Ferrari Testarossa.

I watched this movie with my poor mother, who now has a new least favorite film. Even if you replaced Adam Sandler with a real actor, the plot would remain predictable — Mom and I had one of the killers pegged from the start. The Clue/Orient Express assemblage of unlikely characters doesn’t work well here, the one-eyed Namibian colonel (John Kani, “Black Panther”) and his French-Russian former-Spetsnaz bodyguard (Ólafur Darri Ólafsson, “The Meg”) being the best examples. But worst of all is the racist humor. One memorable line from Aniston: “She’s that kind of pretty that you don’t really know what country she’s from,” in reference to the character played by Japanese actress Shiori Kutsuna (“Deadpool 2”). Once more, it is 2019.

I thought this one would be different. Despite disliking every Sandler movie I’ve ever seen, I gave him another chance. You fooled me twice, Adam.