‘Murder Mystery 2’ Reunites Jennifer Aniston and Adam Sandler for Half-Baked Sequel

The best justification for the existence of “Murder Mystery 2” is that we get to see Jennifer Aniston and Adam Sandler back together again. The plot exists solely around their presence and both retain a fun chemistry. As a movie, it’s another example of streaming creating an endless flow of disposable content. This is a sequel to “Murder Mystery,” which premiered back in 2019 and therefore might have slipped from viewers’ memories. As the title promises, Sandler and Aniston are once again embroiled in trying to figure out a murder. And as with the first movie, the casting and technique outdo the plot. It’s a brisk watch that rushes by like some late night streaming snack.

The movie opens with a detailed recap reminding us about Nick (Sandler) and Audrey (Aniston), the rocky married couple who after solving the murderous plot of the first film, have now decided to open their own detective agency. It’s not doing so well and the two have developed a less than impressive reputation. They get the chance at a nice vacation when Vikar aka the Maharajah (Adeel Akhtar), also from the first movie, invites them to his big wedding to Claudette (Mélanie Laurent). Since The Maharajah is obscenely wealthy, the wedding will of course be on a secluded island. After reuniting with other old friends from the previous caper, like Colonel Ulenga (John Kani), Nick and Audrey settle in for free food and bickering. But the wedding party gets crashed by a murder and the sudden kidnapping of the Maharajah by masked intruders. 

When a movie like “Murder Mystery 2” is obviously designed to bulk up those endless options Netflix throws at you on the home page, you almost have to fight off the urge to wonder if it’s even worth discussing. Real talent is involved all around, since the studio can afford it. Jeremy Garelick directs the bare bones script with admirable rhythm and pacing, making the 1 hour and 30 minutes never lag. The screenplay by James Vanderbilt feels like a slapstick attempt to rip off every other murder mystery. The first movie felt a bit fresher since it arrived a few months before Rian Johnson changed the game with “Knives Out.” Now it all just feels like clichés, some still funny based on sheer acting ability. John Kani is very likable as Colonel Ulenga, who we learn lost an arm. Mark Strong lands in as a cocky, famous detective named Miller who wrote a book Audrey has memorized. Enrique Arce is a one-man comedy win playing a sex-crazed former soccer star, Francisco.  

Individual gags can exist on their own, like a call from the kidnappers using a voice distortion device that becomes a truly funny jab at kidnapping movie clichés. But it just never fully coheres. Sander and Aniston are given jokes that range from cute to simply nothing. The marital infighting never gains steam and it’s much funnier when Garelick switches to pure slapstick. Sandler marching with guns drawn and firing pure misses in slow motion elicits more laughs than arguing over his eating more of the complimentary resort cheese. Ironically, the material sometimes fails to deliver because Sandler and Aniston are naturally likable together. We can’t really believe this marriage is on the verge of failure. It is easier to root for them evading an explosion together when crashing through a window.

The murder mystery that is meant to resolve “Murder Mystery 2” gets resolved very quickly and very unbelievably. One wonders if Vanderbilt was writing solely out of the need to finally deliver a sequel. Kuhoo Verma plays Saira, the Maharaja’s sister and Jodie Turner-Smith is Countess Sekou, still livid over being jilted by the groom in the past. These characters could have made for a broader puzzle, but the real point of this movie is to distract you for an hour and some change. Last year, Sandler starred in the very effective Netflix sports movie, “Hustle,” now he continues fulfilling his big deal with the company by dropping another quickie. To its credit, it delivers precisely as what it is. We’re distracted and slightly entertained by some good actors. Aniston will always have charisma to spare. Throw in exploding cars and poop jokes in French, and the movie nearly succeeds before the party gets tired.

Murder Mystery 2” begins streaming March 31 on Netflix.