Film Writer Cormac Murphy finds Murder Mystery 2 a disappointing and unnecessary sequel that is let down by its weak script
Broadly speaking, Adam Sandler’s comedies had previously passed me by. Those that I had seen I did not enjoy and those that I hadn’t, I had no plans ever to watch. However, after seeing his performance in Uncut Gems, I came to realise that he was in fact a very talented actor and resolved to make an effort to watch any future releases. It was this that lead me to Murder Mystery 2. My expectations were low, given that it seemed to be a return to a format I did not especially care for. Willing to give the benefit of the doubt though, I watched the first Murder Mystery film beforehand. It was, as expected, far from a work of art. Nonetheless, it made for a relatively entertaining watch, and I was excited to see how the sequel built upon this. Alas, my excitement was misplaced.
Murder Mystery 2 follows the same basic formula as the first, albeit with some different incidental details. Husband and wife detective team Nick and Audrey Spitz (Adam Sandler and Jennifer Aniston) find themselves invited to the wedding of recurring character the Maharajah (Adeel Akhtar), only for the groom to be kidnapped, which sets in motion an action-packed search for the kidnapper. I won’t go into further detail, as the plot is so dreadfully predictable that any more information could be considered spoilers. The storyline throughout is uninteresting, convoluted and only really serves to provide a few stale jokes between high-budget action sequences.
One of the more enjoyable aspects of the first film was the on-screen chemistry between Sandler and Aniston – there was an authenticity to their exchanges that made for a few genuinely funny moments. Unfortunately, this is all but lost in Murder Mystery 2. Their performances are still undoubtedly the best in the film but sadly this means little, given the standard the rest of the cast set. Those who are not over-acting to the point of absurdity are barely acting at all and the inclusion of Mark Strong as the obligatory deadpan MI6 agent feels unnecessary, not to mention a waste of talent.
With a script as poorly written as this though, it must be questioned whether the blame should fall on the actors or on James Vanderbilt’s tedious screenplay. How the mind behind Zodiac (2007) could have produced such a weak script is utterly beyond me. The dialogue is painful to listen to – the Maharajah’s lines for instance are made up of various bits of barely coherent slang, apparently on the basis that people speaking in slang terms is inherently funny. Throughout the film, humour misses the mark – clichés are abundant and even less funny than the last hundred times you saw them. One or two jokes show some promise, only to be addressed loudly by some two-dimensional character and dash any hopes of subtlety to oblivion.
To give credit where it is due, the film makes for quite the spectacle. The camerawork and cinematography are visually appealing, if not anything new or exciting. Some of the on-location footage of Hawaii and Paris is undeniably impressive, though this is more about the settings themselves than any inventive camerawork. Similarly, there are some nicely choreographed stunts and the CGI is well executed, but this is indicative of the lazy approach that Netflix – and indeed much of Hollywood today – takes to production.
Rather than putting time and effort into ironing out some of the problems present in the original film, they throw an enormous budget into special effects and hope that the spectacle alone will carry the film. Pleasing to the eye as it may be, sadly the cinematography does not excuse the half-baked plot and woeful performances. Instead, it becomes apparent that these high-budget sequences are simply filler that serve only to stretch out the film’s run time.
My expectations for Murder Mystery 2 were incredibly low and yet somehow, I was still disappointed. Given the awfulness of the first film, it would have been remarkably easy to improve upon it, especially with an increased budget but this is not the case. What little charm the first film had is lost in favour of enormous action scenes that do little to distract from Vanderbilt’s horrendously boring script. Murder Mystery 2 is a lazy, cynical and joyless film which serves as a reminder that not everything needs to be franchised.
Murder Mystery 2 is available now on Netflix
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