REVIEW: Murder Mystery 2 (2023)

Four years after their unexpectedly massive Netflix hit, Adam Sandler and Jennifer Aniston are back with the COVID-delayed follow-up Murder Mystery 2. It picks up protagonists Nick and Audrey Spitz some time after their original adventure, having tried to establish themselves as professional detectives. Invited to the luxurious wedding of their friend Vikram “Maharajah” Govindan (Adeel Akhtar), they are soon investigating the Maharajah’s own kidnapping from the event.

Here is what I wrote about the first Murder Mystery back in 2019: ‘There is an overall sense here of an Agatha Christie pastiche, mixed with a variety of standard comic misunderstandings, pratfalls, and farce. Is it particularly great? Not really, but at the same time neither is it actively unenjoyable. One of the most fitting descriptions for the film is ‘pleasant’: the leads are likeable, and enough of the jokes are funny to keep the average viewer happy.’ It is worth revisiting that sentiment, because unsurprisingly it applies as much to the sequel as it does to the original. There is a lot to Murder Mystery 2 that is lazy: Sandler returns to his now-regulatory ‘Average Joe’ persona, while Aniston is again relegated to being ‘Average Joe’s hot wife’. It is all composed according to a formula, contrasting the down-to-Earth American leads with an exotic European location. The mystery referenced in the title has been developed for viewer comfort rather than stimulation. The villain can be easily spotted from their first appearance, and at no point does the film risk surprising its audience.

Some characters return from the first film, including not just Akhtar’s grating Maharajah but also Dany Boon as French police inspector Delacroix and a winning John Kani as the increasingly maimed Colonel Ulenga. There are some charming performers by franchise newcomers, such as Mark Strong as English hostage negotiator Connor Miller and Mélanie Laurent as the Maharajah’s fiancée Claudette. The cast lift the material, but there is also no denying each of them is slumming it.

All up Murder Mystery 2 feels a little less entertaining, and a little more mediocre. On the other hand, it does feature some genuinely funny set pieces that surpass anything seen in the first film. A van chase through the streets of Paris is particularly strong, and points to a much better film had director Jeremy Garelick pushed beyond his fairly rudimentary remit. A more uneven work actually proves to be a slightly more frustrating one: mediocrity can be comfortable – enjoyable even – but signs that the artists are capable of better things tends to irritate. It is the sort of amiable entertainment that can prove quite entertaining, but not particularly so, and it probably only bears being enjoyed once.

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