On the verge of his first-career Oscar nomination for Uncut Gems in 2019, Adam Sandler made a promise.
“If I don’t get it, I’m going to f—king come back and do one again that is so bad on purpose just to make you all pay,” Sandler said. “That’s how I get them.”
Though Netflix’s Murder Mystery 2 doesn’t quite reach those lows, it certainly comes close.
Murder Mystery 2 follows 2019’s Murder Mystery—a movie so vapid and uncomfortably mediocre that it is difficult to see why it warranted a sequel. The movie returns Sandler and Jennifer Aniston, who play Nick and Audrey Spitz, respectively. Picking up after the events of the first film, the couple seeks to reinvigorate their stale marriage by taking up a new career as a pair of detectives. After the Maharajah (Adeel Akhtar) is kidnapped during his lavish wedding, Nick and Audrey awkwardly stumble toward cracking the case.
The bare minimum for these sorts of movies is to amuse its viewers. Murder Mystery 2 only just passes this test, offering its viewers an adequately enjoyable, albeit unexceptionable, mystery experience. But while Murder Mystery 2 slightly improves upon its predecessor, the movie ultimately falls flat and fails to justify its existence as a sequel.
Laziness permeates much of the film, infecting everything from its plot to its jokes. Not even the movie’s title is safe from its creators’ laziness.
Around midway through the movie, Audrey points out a certain cliché of the genre in an attempt at fourth-wall-breaking humor. Murder Mystery 2’s reluctance to break from such clichéd mystery-movie tropes, however, is where the film’s laziness is most apparent.
From its past-their-acting-prime leads to its uninventive storyline, Murder Mystery 2 joins a long line of forgettable, generic films that Sandler and Netflix have churned out in recent years as a part of his production contract with the streaming giant.
Its familiarity, though, is where Murder Mystery 2 draws one of its few strengths and is what will generate its commercial success. Its brisk 89-minute runtime makes it a safe, low-investment choice for viewers. For better or worse, Murder Mystery 2 feels like a watchable-enough movie that you’ve already seen.
The film’s bland action sequences feel out of place and downright unnecessary. Sandler—who has made a career out of playing silly, yet lovable, characters—is an awkward fit in the movie’s fight scenes.
Sandler’s inability to capture the unique charm shown in his previous comedies is a particularly glaring struggle for the movie. Instead of building on an arguably career-best performance four years ago playing Howard Ratner in Uncut Gems, Sandler chose to turn in a mailed-in performance as a plain, thinly written character.
Sandler was not the only one who fell short of expectations, either. Screenwriter James Vanderbilt, whose previous work includes gems like the David Fincher–directed Zodiac, pens a script hobbled by plot holes and contrivances. Along with its paint-by-numbers narrative, Murder Mystery 2 pales in comparison to a crafty mystery movie like 2019’s Knives Out.
Perhaps the most frustrating aspect of Murder Mystery 2 is its ending, in which it gestures toward the exhausting prospect of a third film. Film studios’ desire to pump out franchises and endless sequels is a plague ravaging through Hollywood. Murder Mystery 2—and its potential future sequels—is just the latest example of the trend’s impact.