Review: Sandler, Aniston Reteam in ‘Murder Mystery 2’

Jennifer Aniston, left, and Adam Sandler arrive at the premiere of "Murder Mystery 2" on Tuesday, March 28, 2023, at the Regency Village Theatre in Los Angeles. (AP)
Jennifer Aniston, left, and Adam Sandler arrive at the premiere of "Murder Mystery 2" on Tuesday, March 28, 2023, at the Regency Village Theatre in Los Angeles. (AP)
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Review: Sandler, Aniston Reteam in ‘Murder Mystery 2’

Jennifer Aniston, left, and Adam Sandler arrive at the premiere of "Murder Mystery 2" on Tuesday, March 28, 2023, at the Regency Village Theatre in Los Angeles. (AP)
Jennifer Aniston, left, and Adam Sandler arrive at the premiere of "Murder Mystery 2" on Tuesday, March 28, 2023, at the Regency Village Theatre in Los Angeles. (AP)

You would have a hard time defending the limp plotting, the bland action-adventure set pieces or the Agatha Christie-light whodunit twists of the first “Murder Mystery.” And, yet, it was kind of good.

“Murder Mystery,” one of Netflix's most-streamed films, was chock full of exotic settings and mysterious murders. But the only thing that mattered, really, was the banter between Jennifer Aniston and Adam Sandler. Though “Murder Mystery” could be said to epitomize that very modern kind of passive and painless viewing experience on streaming platforms, their married couple was a throwback to a long-ago movie era. Audrey and Nick Spitz, a pair of working-class New Yorkers turned semi-amateur detectives, might as well be Nick and Nora Charles, the 1930s crime solvers.

“Murder Mystery” and its new sequel don't have anywhere near the sparkle of the “The Thin Man” movies, with William Powell, Myrna Loy and their wire fox terrier Asta. But like those films, everything in “Murder Mystery” and “Murder Mystery 2” is secondary, and distantly so, to the comic and sweet rapport between the Spitzes, a bickering but lovingly connected married couple. Like its predecessor, “Murder Mystery 2” is built on old-fashioned star power and the interplay between Sandler and Aniston. They’re good company to be in, and sometimes that’s enough.

Whether “Murder Mystery 2” meets that somewhat low bar will probably depend on just how casually you're watching it. For many, it may be enough to say that “Murder Mystery 2," which debuts Friday on Netflix, fits the bill as amiable background noise.

And this one, in which Jeremy Garelick (writer of “The Hangover”) takes over directing with James Vanderbilt returning to write the screenplay, starts out like a new season to a TV series, with a narrated recap of what the Spitzes have been up to since the last film. After their luck solving their first case, they've made themselves full-time private eyes. The clients aren't lining up, though, so it's welcome news when a friend from the first film, the Maharajah (Adeel Akhtar), calls up to invite them to his wedding and fly them out to his private island and then to Paris.

For those who have accused Sandler of using movies as an excuse to hang out with friends in beautiful locales, the “Murder Mystery” movies won't disappoint. This time, the action has been turned up a notch, especially once the Maharajah is kidnapped and an MI6 hostage negotiator (Mark Strong) shows up. Strong's potent presence lends some credibility to the mayhem, mostly in Paris, but he also gives Sandler and Aniston a straight man to bounce their jokes off of. Some of the gags are pretty dusty, even by “Thin Man” standards, including one Sandler line comparing marriage to hostage negotiations and a dance scene at an Indian wedding that's unlikely to draw any comparisons to “RRR.”

All of this may lend some scale to “Murder Mystery 2” but it's no help to the comedy. Despite that, good comic chemistry can be hard to come by, and Aniston — who's been wonderful in these films — and Sandler keep these films more entertaining than they should be.

Especially in recent years — a chilly period for big-screen comedies — the movies have struggled to figure out what do with bright, funny women like Aniston despite their abundant talent. Even in these decent-at-best comedies, her natural sense of timing is sharp and lively, and she and Sandler make a charming, easy-flowing duo. All they really need, to borrow a trick from Nick and Nora, is a dog.



'Inside Out 2' Scores $100M in its 2nd Weekend, Setting Records

This image released by Disney/Pixar shows Joy, voiced by Amy Poehler, left, and Anxiety, voiced by Maya Hawke, in a scene from "Inside Out 2." (Disney/Pixar via AP)
This image released by Disney/Pixar shows Joy, voiced by Amy Poehler, left, and Anxiety, voiced by Maya Hawke, in a scene from "Inside Out 2." (Disney/Pixar via AP)
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'Inside Out 2' Scores $100M in its 2nd Weekend, Setting Records

This image released by Disney/Pixar shows Joy, voiced by Amy Poehler, left, and Anxiety, voiced by Maya Hawke, in a scene from "Inside Out 2." (Disney/Pixar via AP)
This image released by Disney/Pixar shows Joy, voiced by Amy Poehler, left, and Anxiety, voiced by Maya Hawke, in a scene from "Inside Out 2." (Disney/Pixar via AP)

Weekend number two was just as joyous for “Inside Out 2.”
The Pixar sequel collected $100 million in ticket sales in its second weekend, according to studio estimates Sunday, setting a new record for an animated movie in its follow-up frame in theaters, The Associated Press reported. The previous best second weekend for an animated title was the $92 million for “The Super Mario Bros. Movie.” Only six movies ever have had better second weekends.
In just a week and a half, “Inside Out 2” has become 2024’s highest-grossing film to date with $724.4 million globally, including $355.2 million in US and Canadian theaters. That passes the $711.8 million worldwide total of “Dune: Part Two.” “Inside Out 2” will likely blow through the $1 billion mark in about a week, which would make it the first film since “Barbie” to do so.
The extent of the “Inside Out 2” success startled Hollywood, which had grown accustomed to lower expectations as the film industry watched ticket sales this year slump about 40% below pre-pandemic totals, according to data firm Comscore, before “Inside Out 2” came along.
The record haul for “Inside Out 2,” though, recalled past years when $1 billion grosses were more commonplace for the Walt Disney Co. It is also a much-needed blockbuster for Pixar, which after experimenting with direct-to-streaming releases, reconsidered its movie pipeline and approach to mass-audience appeal.
Now, “Inside Out 2,” which dipped a mere 35% from its $154 million domestic debut, is poised to challenge “The Incredibles 2” ($1.2 billion) for the all-time top grossing Pixar release. It could also steer the venerated animation factory toward more sequels. Among its upcoming films is “Toy Story 5,” due out in 2026.
For theater owners, “Inside Out 2” could hardly have been more needed. But it also reminded exhibitors of how feast-or-famine the movie business has become in recent years. Since the pandemic, movies like “Barbie,” “Spider-Man: No Way Home” and “Top Gun: Maverick” have pushed ticket sales to record heights, but fallow periods in between box-office sensations have grown longer. Ticket sales over Memorial Day last month were the worst in three decades.
Some of 2024’s downturn can be attributed to release-schedule juggling caused by last year’s writers and actors strikes. The biggest new release over the weekend was Jeff Nichols’ motorcycle gang drama “The Bikeriders,” a film originally slated to open in 2023 before the actors strike prompted its postponement.
“The Bikeriders,” starring Jodie Comer, Austin Butler and Tom Hardy, came in on the high side of expectations with $10 million from 2,642 venues in its opening weekend. “The Bikeriders,” which cost about $35 million to produce, was originally to be released by Disney before New Regency took it to Focus Features last fall.
The strong business for “Inside Out 2” appeared to raise ticket sales generally. Sony Pictures’ “Bad Boys: Ride or Die” held well in its third week of release, collecting $18.8 million. It remained in second place. The “Bad Boys” sequel, starring Will Smith and Martin Lawrence, has grossed $146.9 million domestically thus far.
Next week, the sci-fi horror prequel “A Quiet Place: Day One” and Kevin Costner's Western epic “Horizon: An American Saga — Chapter 1" will hope some of the “Inside Out 2” success rubs off on them.