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'Murder Mystery' review: Sandler, Aniston in fine form in Netflix's Agatha Christie homage

Jennifer Aniston, Adam Sandler and Gemma Arterton in

Jennifer Aniston, Adam Sandler and Gemma Arterton in "Murder Mystery" Credit: Netflix/Scott Yamano

THE MOVIE “Murder Mystery”

WHEN | WHERE Now streaming on Netflix

WHAT IT’S ABOUT On the eve of his 15th wedding anniversary, NYPD Sgt. Nick Spitz (Adam Sandler) finally springs for that European vacation he promised his wife, Audrey (Jennifer Aniston). En route, Audrey catches the eye of a British playboy, Charles Cavendish (Luke Evans), who impulsively invites the Spitzes to a little soiree on a massive yacht. When the party ends in murder, Nick and Audrey try to solve the case, only to find that they’re the main suspects. 

MY SAY In contemporary Hollywood, the only talent more sorely underused than Jennifer Aniston is Adam Sandler. Their cinematic misses have outnumbered their hits for something like 20 years. Nevertheless, we love them; we’ll forgive them anything. When they appeared together for the first time in “Just Go With It,” a dismal rom-com from 2011, audiences paid $200 million to see it. 

Sandler and Aniston are back together in “Murder Mystery,” a gentle sendup of the whodunit genre. It’s a Netflix Original, which means featherweight entertainment for a stay-at-home evening. But here’s a surprise: Sandler and Aniston haven't been this charming and funny in a very long time. 

That’s partly because they’re playing to type. Sandler’s Nick is the middle-class schmo with a good heart, while Aniston's Audrey is smart, sexy and underappreciated. The two actors play nicely off each other, creating a convincing rapport as a bickering but tender married couple. It’s also fun to watch them play the bumbling Americans in oh-so-cultured Europe. 

Among the snobs and elites are actress Grace Ballard (Gemma Arterton), race-car driver Juan Carlos Rivera (Luis-Gerardo Mendez) and the Japanese seductress Suzi Nakamura (Shioli Kutsuna). Any of them could have murdered billionaire Malcolm Quince (Terence Stamp), but for some reason French Inspector Laurent Delacroix (Dany Boon) insists the Spitzes are the killers. 

If “Murder Mystery” feels almost like a real theatrical movie — it even features a Ferrari chase through the streets of Italy — that’s because it almost was. It began as a Walt Disney Studios production with John Madden (“Shakespeare in Love”) as director and Charlize Theron in the lead. How it landed at Netflix isn’t completely clear, but the success of Fox’s "Murder On the Orient Express,” an Agatha Christie throwback from 2017, may have had something to do with it. 

That’s too bad because, with a little more comedic energy and production pizzazz, “Murder Mystery” could have been a cheeky alternative to the somber “Orient Express.” Capably directed by Kyle Newacheck from a suitably twisty-turny script by James Vanderbilt (“White House Down,” “Zodiac”), it serves its purpose as a lighthearted comedy. It’s also a good reminder of why its two stars keep pulling us back in. 

BOTTOM LINE Sandler and Aniston are in fine form in this Agatha Christie homage. 

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