Nick (Adam Sandler) and Audrey Spitz (Jennifer Aniston) have set up a detective agency, leaving their jobs as an NYPD officer and a hairdresser, respectively, four years after successfully finding out who killed the old man on a yacht. Unfortunately, for the Spitzes, the agency is floundering, and so is their marriage. Enter Maharajah Vikram Shivan Govindan — remember him in the first instalment of this crime-comedy?
The Maharajah (Adeel Akhtar) is getting married to a Parisian shopgirl, Claudette (Mélanie Laurent), who struts out in a custom Papa Don’t Preach by Shubhika dhoti jumpsuit, when Nick and Audrey land on the former’s exotic private island; Vikram has invited them to for the wedding. It is the perfect, breezy getaway for Nick and Audrey, except that it is not.
The opulent mayhem
Much like the first instalment, what is meant to be a fun and easy vacation turns out to be a rollercoaster ride filled with a series of murders that the Spitzes have to solve because they’ve ended up being the primary suspects.
However, unlike the first instalment which had its aesthetics set on a luxury cruise and Lake Como, the second part hops from an abduction of the Maharajah at a Big Fat Indian wedding to some action and case on the streets of Paris, ending with a cliched but nevertheless exciting climax at the Eiffel Tower.
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The destination wedding is glamorous and glitzy, but more importantly, it’s a relief from the gaudy Indian stereotype that we’re fed by Western cinema. This one is beautiful at best, and inoffensive at worst. Nick and Audrey, dressed exquisitely in a Manish Malhotra sherwani and lehenga, head to the sangeet, where they meet other guests aka also the to-be-suspects.
For starters, we have Francisco (Enrique Arce), a former football player and currently Vikram’s friend who handles his many business ventures. There’s also the superlicious Countess Sekou who was engaged to Vikram previously (Jodie Turner-Smith) and her assistant Imani (Zurin Villanueva). Not to mention, the recurring Colonel Ulenga (John Kani) from the first part is also back, along with Vikram’s sister, Saira (Kuhoo Verma).
As soon as the sangeet starts, and the groom’s over-the-top entry on an elephant is cued, it comes to light that the Maharajah has been kidnapped. So begins the opulent mayhem that is rooted in being self-aware of the nonsense that it champions throughout the span of this one-hour-30- minutes movie. Although what becomes director Jeremy Garelick’s smartest ploy is the act of first defining the cliches of every murder mystery, and then falling for the same cliche soon after.
A fine, fun payback
Naturally, Murder Mystery 2 is funnier and crazier than its predecessor. However, because of obvious reasons, it lacks the refreshing originality that the first part brought. The wackiness was expected this time around, maybe that is why, at some places, the punches didn’t feel as funny as they did previously, even though they were probably better written than earlier.
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However, for the most part, Murder Mystery 2 delivers what it had promised — unabashed fun, laced with goofy humour, set against breathtaking backdrops that present your eyes with a feast, while allowing you to give your mind a break. If the plot is a messy string of goof-ups and silly sleuthing, then the design contrasts it with visual elegance.
All that said, a review of this loopy drama would be incomplete without mentioning how it celebrates Indian, with some inclusive desi touch. From songs like Ghungroo Toot Gaye, to Husn Hai Suhana, to an original creation by Avinash Chandrachud and Vishwajeet Joshi called King Dee Wedding, the film is filled with such Indian easter eggs.
If you’re looking for a payback for all those times when you saw a South Asian taxi driver portrayed in a stereotypical way, or heard Sarah Jessica Parker call a lehenga a saree, or witnessed Padma and Parvati in atrocious costumes in Harry Potter, then Murder Mystery 2 gives a fine and fun one.
Tailor-made for streaming audience
The cast of Murder Mystery 2 is, alas, the highlight of the film — in the moments when the screenplay falters, it is Sandler and Aniston, along with other supporting actors that save the day. The on-screen pairing of these two hilariously endearing actors has the kind of heart-warming effect that coming back home after ages usually has on a person.
Right from their first movie together in 2011 — Just Go With It, Aniston and Sandler have shared this trademark kind of chemistry that is least sizzling or aspirational, but gratifyingly relatable.
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Together, the cast plays off each other’s energy and makes this ludicrous film feel like just the breather you need after a long day of staid work and chores. It knows its place in the film scrapbook, and makes sure that you do too — it is a film that is meant to provide frivolous joy, but nevertheless; joy. It goes without saying that the Sandler and Aniston- starrer makes it imperative for you to abandon all logic and reason in order to truly enjoy the ride.
You know they’ll come back, and once again the eternally sweet charm of its stars will bring back audiences to watch this crime comedy, but the question remains of whether or not this James Vanderbilt-written film will be able to overcome the challenge that most sequels face — the plight of being predictable. If it doesn’t, then humour shall fall flat, and the fun out of this frivolously fun murder mystery shall die, a slow painful death.
Until then, the franchise remains one of those formulaic, no-nonsense types of film that is tailor-made to suit the streaming audience — chic, attractive, and enriched with that odd touch of old-fashioned humanity, that the VFX-heavy theatrical releases miss out on. It’s silly, it’s kooky, it’s sweet, and it’s inane, but at the end of the day, life is all about finding happiness in those stupid pleasures.