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Open this photo in gallery:Murder Mystery 2. (L-R) Jennifer Aniston as Audrey Spitz and Adam Sandler as Nick Spitz in Murder Mystery 2. Cr. Scott Yamano/Netflix © 2022.

Jennifer Aniston, left, as Audrey Spitz and Adam Sandler as Nick Spitz in Murder Mystery 2 on Netflix.Scott Yamano/Netflix

Murder Mystery 2

Directed by Jeremy Garelick

Written by James Vanderbilt

Starring Adam Sandler, Jennifer Aniston and Mark Strong

Classification N/A; 89 minutes

Streaming on Netflix starting March 31

Early in Murder Mystery 2, the sequel to the 2019 Netflix comedy that has been forgotten by everyone not involved in the Adam Sandler family trust, our heroes Nick (Sandler) and Audrey (Jennifer Aniston) marvel at the luxe surroundings of their tropical hotel room.

The married couple-turned-amateur detectives have been invited to the property to celebrate the wedding of Maharajah (Adeel Akhtar), their friend from the first movie whom you definitely don’t remember, either. Anyway, as Nick and Audrey admire their giant oceanfront villa, complete with retractable roof, Cartier gift bags filled with complimentary jewellery, and a welcome spread that includes delectable chunks of what Nick dubs “unicorn cheese,” it becomes clear just why and how Sandler and his coterie make these cash-grab movies in the first place. The stars get a nice vacation, and Netflix subscribers get a half- or really quarter-hearted comedy that can be thrown on as background noise on a Saturday night. Wash, unicorn cheese, repeat.

Honestly, by this point in the streaming wars, I can only admire Sandler for exploiting the system to make gobs of money for himself and his buds, including Aniston, whose appearance here marks her third collaboration with the Sand Man, now tying the actor’s previous onscreen paramour, Drew Barrymore, for easy paydays. So long as Sandler also makes the time now and then to star in genuinely interesting films for Netflix (The Meyerowitz Stories, Uncut Gems, Hustle), then no one is being hurt. Except audiences who should know better by now.

I suppose there is a slight chance that there is somebody out there not related to Sandler who actually actively enjoys these films in a non-ironic sense? If so, you might be interested to know that Murder Mystery 2 doubles down on the action and twists of the first movie but not, you know, the comedy. Once again, Nick and Audrey are pulled into an Agatha Christie-lite adventure in which everyone is a suspect, including themselves. Once again, there is a lot of expensive-looking globe-trotting, including a sojourn to Paris. Once again, there are vastly overqualified supporting actors strictly here for the money/unicorn cheese (Mark Strong, Jodie Turner-Smith and Mélanie Laurent, the latter of whom looks especially lost).

If you squint especially hard and hold your breath till you pass out, the sequel almost resembles an attempt by Sandler to recreate Glass Onion. Or maybe it’s his no-frills version of Game Night, the 2018 Jason Bateman-Rachel McAdams vehicle about a married couple caught up in criminal high jinks that is actually funny, sharp and imaginative. (This mostly comes across during a scene in which Aniston’s character accidentally injures a bad guy, echoing McAdams’s immortal line reading of, “Oh no, he died!” from Game Night.)

But ultimately Murder Mystery 2 is the most business-as-usual kind of Sandler shtick, its only real surprise being how the production manages to pull off one solitary, very lonely surprise toward its end (it involves a quick appearance from Jillian Bell, bless her heart). But hey, it looks like everyone had fun making it. Pass the unicorn cheese.

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