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Movies, dining and things to do / Spokane and North Idaho

Sandler’s ‘Murder Mystery’ no ‘Happy Gilmore’

Among the several Netflix Originals that have been released recently, the Adam Sandler comedy "Murder Mystery" has been attracting a bit of critical attention. So I decided to review it for Spokane Public Radio, and following is a transcription:

So many film stars have experienced wind-shear careers. One minute they’re riding a box-office – maybe even a critical – high. And the next they find themselves relegated to a bargain DVD bin set up at their local grocery story.

And let’s face it, in this era of streaming services, DVDs are long out of fashion.

Speaking of streaming services, it once was commonly accepted that having a movie originate anywhere other than an actual theater meant your career was headed for that dreaded grocery bargain bin. As they tend to do, though, times have changed.

Take Adam Sandler. For years – roughly comprising a decade beginning in the mid-90s – Sandler had one comedy hit after the next. I still see guys on occasion trying to imitate his “Happy Gilmore” golf swing, though never on an actual golf course.

More recently, though, Sandler has been a presence on Netflix. In fact, since 2015 Sandler has produced a half-dozen Netflix projects, the latest being the comedy “Murder Mystery.”

Not that being a Netflix regular has hurt his career any. In 2017, the service extended its deal with him, and “Murder Mystery” – which was directed by veteran TV and music-video-maker Kyle Newacheck, from a script by writer-producer James Vanderbilt – came out of that extension.

In the film, Sandler plays a New York cop named Nick who – though he can’t quite find the focus he needs to pass the detective’s test – still has managed to figure out how to stay married to Audrey, a hairdresser played by Jennifer Aniston.

And, yes, you heard that right: the one-time “Friends” star plays a hairdresser – though she may be the least believable hairdresser since Edward Scissorhands.

Tricked into paying for a long-promised European vacation – one that was supposed to have been their honeymoon some 15 years before – Nick finds himself becoming jealous on the flight over when Audrey connects with a sophisticated fellow named Charles (played by Luke Evans). Not surprisingly, Nick refuses Charles’ offer for both of them to join him on his family’s yacht and attend a birthday party for his uncle.

Pretty soon, though, for reasons that fit perfectly with this kind of comedy, Nick changes his mind, and the two working-class New Yorkers find themselves mingling with an elite crowd that might put some familiar Mar-a-Lago residents to shame.

Soon after that, they become the chief suspects when the uncle ends up mysteriously murdered. The rest of the film involves Nick and Audrey struggling – often Inspector Clouseau-like – both to prove their innocence and to find the real murderer.

Kudos to you if you figure things out before they do. I wasn’t able to. Then again, that might have been because I’d begun playing Solitaire on my iPad.

Not that “Murder Mystery” is particularly bad. It has a few funny moments, even if I never once bought Aniston as a character more appropriately played by, say, one of the Amys – Poehler or Schumer.

It’s just that if you’re familiar with Sandler’s work, you know what to expect – even if, this time, it has nothing to do with golf.