There’s a good and bad to Netflix. It grants creators license to do some wild shit for very niche audiences. But most Netflix movies suffer a made-for-television feel that costs a film’s vitality. Somewhere in the middle, there’s Adam Sandler, benefiting from both.
Or that’s what I assume, anyway. I haven’t seen many of these Netflix films, but I’m going to spend this week checking them out to see if a license to do whatever he wants has helped him create any new secret classics stupid fans like me can use to defend him when the need arises. I’m not including his standup special 100% FRESH because its superiority is not to be argued.
Today’s Entry: MURDER MYSTERY
Directed By Kyle Newacheck (No other Sandler credits)
This one was NOT co-written by Adam Sandler
Some movie structures are less vulnerable to poor quality than others. I’ll always watch a heist movie, for instance. Even if it’s bad, the moves demanded by the genre usually still manage to entertain. Murder Mysteries also have this benefit. You get your murder, your cast of suspects, the investigation, and that beautiful conclusion where the detective gathers everyone and puts it all together. They're great.
MURDER MYSTERY puts this to the test. The film is too bland and benign to be bad, but it follows tropes with a comedic lightness that negates any tension or stakes in the central mystery. Nevertheless, it still manages to entertain when sticking to subgenre convention. Mildly. Everything with this film requires that adverb. If you found KNIVES OUT too much to handle, this is the movie for you.
Everyman Sandler, Sad Sandler, or Wild Sandler?
Everyman Sandler. He’s a cop, but certainly not a cool one despite his mustache. He wants to be a detective but cannot pass the exam, and in his shame, he lies to his wife about it. I don’t know how he expects to get out of that one. When she displays anger over his lack of a good 15th wedding anniversary gift, he lies again, claiming he booked them European vacation. Rather than show us the conflict of booking a last minute vacation, we just cut to them on the plane. That’s kind of MURDER MYSTERY’s style, no real stress.
But the point is, Sandler lies a lot, gets humbled a lot, and fights with Jennifer Aniston a lot. He’s fine in the film in the same way the entire film is just fine.
Sandler Regulars Present
Not a soul! It’s crazy!
Would It Make It To Theaters?
Of all these films, I feel MURDER MYSTER is the most likely to have been a theatrical release. It has a famous female co-star, isn’t too long, sticks to an easy premise and doesn’t have any challenging material. It would come out to theaters and would be profitable thanks to an army of anonymous moviegoers no one seems to know in real life.
Is it funny, or does it just sound funny?
It’s not funny. The film shoots for a gentle humor of relatability, mostly. It also wants to draw a weird line between Sandler and Aniston as modest, low-culture Americans and the thralls of bad Americans vacationing in Europe. You’re supposed to relate to them as not fitting into a different culture, while also not being awful. I will say, there are humorous little jokes here and there, and the film does feature a guy with a wooden hand. Unfortunately he is not played by Carl Weathers.
Is it too goddamn long?
No, this one is not too goddamn long. At about 100 minutes, we finally have one that is exactly where it should be.
Bad Sandler, Good Sandler, or Great Sandler?
Bad Sandler. It’s not exactly a bad movie, but it’s also far from a good movie. It just is.
I think Sandler fans gained more than they lost with his switch to Netflix. Four out of these five films offered something a little more indulgent than we’re used to from him. That’s not always a good idea, but I appreciate the experiment. And for the most part, I liked the movies.
Condensed into one week of viewing, I am struck by the variety Adam Sandler went for. A rowdy absurd Western, a low-brow action comedy, a long, idiosyncratic character study, a family dramedy, and a strictly down the middle two-hander. And don't forget Noah Baumbach's THE MEYERWITZ STORIES is in there as well, though I don't count it as a full Adam Sandler movie. Rather than make MURDER MYSTERY five times in a row, he tried way different things, playing five distinctly different characters in the process. This is part of why I can never abandon Sandler. No matter how many bad movies he makes, he always has the capacity to take swings. They may not be in a direction you prefer, though.
5. MURDER MYSTERY
4. THE DO-OVER
3. THE WEEK OF
2. SANDY WEXLER
1. THE RIDICULOUS 6