Film Review: MURDER MYSTERY (USA 2019) ***

Murder Mystery Poster

A New York cop and his wife go on a European vacation to reinvigorate the spark in their marriage, but end up getting framed and on the run for the death of an elderly billionaire.


Kyle Newacheck


James Vanderbilt (screenplay)

Adam Sandler’s second comedy with Netflix cannot be as bad as the dismal THE RIDICULOUS 6 which at present still holds a 0% rating on Rotten Tomatoes.  MURDER MYSTERY is actually quite funny, given a little more class with Jennifer Anniston as Sandler’s co-star, not to mention the luxury yacht and European setting.

Sandler typically plays the poor man’s fool, in this case a New York City police officer.

Nick Spitz (Sandler) finally takes his wife, Audrey (Aniston) on a long-promised European trip.  En flight, a chance meeting with a mysterious man, Charles Cavendish (Luke Evans) gets them invited to an intimate family gathering on the super yacht of an elderly billionaire, Malcolm Quince (a cameo from Terence Stamp). When the wealthy man is murdered, they become the prime suspects of French Inspector Laurent Delacroix (Dany Boon).  At one hilarious point, the Spitzes are questioned by the millionaire Quince what they are doing on his ship.

The script which is quite well composed by James Vanderbilt, who seems to understand these things, puts together several genres, the most important of which is the murder mystery genre.  At one point, Nick even puts forth the classic 3 basic motives for murder.  As they try to uncover the identity of the killer, they put together the three motives of money, revenge and love.  The murder mystery portion is played straight unlike other comedies of this sort, most notably Neil Simon’s MURDER BY DEATH or his THE CHEAP DETECTIVE.  The humour in the film arrives primarily from the  couple’s bickering and their foolhardiness in their attempts to escape the killer.  The funniest jokes are also inconsequential to the plot but they are funny.  Two notable ones (not to be revealed here) involve angry flossing (this has to be seen to be believed) and the line’Ask Siri”.

The film also contains an impressive list of international stars.  Little Britain’s David Walliams plays Tobias Quince, Malcolm’s gay son.  One wishes there is more of Waliams.  French popular Dany Boon plays his inspector quite seriously though he bumbles the investigation as much as Peter Seller’s Inspector Clouseau.  New Mexican star and heart-throb Luis Gerardo Mendez plays race car driver Juan Carlos.

Sandler and Anistan make a good movie couple, in love but still bickering over small things.  “Will you stop questioning all I do?” asks Nick at one point. “But everything you do is questionable.” is Audrey’s response.  What is also touching in the movie is the fact that each of them, being in the marriage for a while is able to tolerate and forgive each other.  Even when Nick has lied to Audrey that he was a detective.  The story illustrates how a solid relationship in a marriage can survive – a point subtly made in the film. 

MURDER MYSTERY is not the best comedy around or not a message movie that will answer questions in life, though it tries to answer the question what a maharaja is.  But for a Netflix film to be watched in the comfort of ones home, it makes an excellent choice for an evening film.  It has a good mystery, is funny and light and is what one needs after a hard day at work.



office_christmas_party_movie_poster.jpgDirectors: Josh Gordon, Will Speck

Stars: Jason Bateman, Olivia Munn, T.J. Miller, Jennifer Aniston, Kate McKinnon, Vanessa Bayer

OFFICE CHRISTMAS PARTY, the comedy, about an office party gone haywire is not novel in its idea or conception. The office here is some software tech called Zenotek. The CEO Carol Vanstone (Jennifer Aniston) tries to close the branch of her hard-partying brother Clay (T. J. Miller). Clay and his Chief Technical Officer, Josh Parker (Jason Bateman) must rally their co-workers and host an epic office Christmas party in an effort to impress a potential client, first name Walter (Courtney B. Vance) and close a sale that will save their jobs. It is not a revolutionary storyline, but one that has potential for high jinx comedy. Directors Speck and Gordon (BLADES OF GLORY and THE SWITCH) has fashioned this office party comedy using all means they can get their hands on. The result is them getting their hands too full.

OFFICE CHRISTMAS PARTY will be inevitably compared to other party comedies like the teen PROJECT X and the Blake Edwards/Peter Sellers collaboration THE PARTY. Like both films, OFFICE CHRISTMAS PARTY is about the party that escalates slowly out of control. Here, a dressed up Jesus rides a white horse right down the office cubicles. The building high rise windows get smashed and almost every male gets a blow job.

In THE PARTY a painted elephant gets washed with bubbles everywhere while all the surrounding trees and electricity poles get wrecked outside the party house in PROJECT X. But the problem with OFFICE CHRISTMAS PARTY is that just when the party gets funny, right after Walter accidentally gets coked up, the film is taken out into the open where an unfunny car chase takes place ending with the car racing to make a drawbridge – a stunt that is does not come off that funny.

The Russian mafia takedown does not generate much laughs either.
The script takes the plot of saving the company too seriously. The audience is supposed to believe that Josh’s romantic interest, Tracey (Olivia Munn) has invented some internet communications portal. Who really cares? If one can remember, THE PARTY hardly and any plot but an Indian actor accidentally invited to a Hollywood party and accidentally causing havoc.

The cast contains some bright talents – some funny but some not. Saturday Night Live’s Kate McKinnon (she played Hillary Clinton on SNL) is winning as the politically correct HR person, thought the script has to rely on her sex and fart jokes. (She is called the farty lady). Courtney B. Vance is also a scream. Bateman and Munn have straight roles while Miller is not funny at all. Jennifer Aniston is quite game for anything and she does the Meryl Streep role in THE DEVIL WEARS PRADA. Her character makes two grand entrances (remember Streep’s unforgettable 10 minute entrance to the Prada building at the film’s start?) to the brother’s company.

Considering the cast and talent involved in OFFICE CHRISTMAS PARTY, the film could have come up with a higher hit and miss laughter ratio. Still, my bet is the film doing well at the box-office, with a film milking the perfect festive holiday theme of an office party.



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Movie Review: MOTHER’S DAY (2016). Starring: Jennifer Aniston, Kate Hudson, Julia Roberts

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mothersdayMOTHER’S DAY (USA 2016) **

Directed by Garry Marshall

Starring: Jennifer Aniston, Kate Hudson, Julia Roberts, Timothy Olyphant, Shay Mitchell, Jason Sudeikis

Review by Gilbert Seah

Director Garry Marshall has created his niche in directing saccharine sweet films for the not so demanding moviegoer. His NEW YEAR’S EVE, VALENTINE’ DAY and PRETTY WOMAN say it all. The 81 year-old has been at it since 1982 when I saw his first film YOUNG DOCTORS IN LOVE. He also is the creator of the iconic TV series, “Happy Days”, “Laverne & Shirley”, and “Mork & Mindy”.

So do not expect much from his latest family comedy MOTHER’S DAY. The plot involves 3 interconnecting stories with mothers. They are loosely connected. For example, a friend of one gives advice to another who is in a different story. So, the film could consists of 3 unconnected stories for all that matters.

The first mother is Sandy (Jennifer Aniston) who has two sons. Her recently divorced husband, Henry (Timothy Olyphant) is marrying young Tina (Shay Mitchell). To Sandy’s dismay, everything is going on too well with her ex. The second mother is high profile TV star, Miranda (Julia Roberts) who has given up her daughter, Kristin (Britt Robertson) for her career. Kristen seeks to find her mother while not being able to commit to marrying her Irish boyfriend. And there is Jesse (Kate Hudson), a mother who married an east-Indian against her parents wishes. All these stories are quite easy to follow on screen, despite it sounding confusing on paper. It is hard to determine which is the best story. But one can tell that there is healthy competition among the stars to do their part the best. Aniston tries very hard at being funny. Roberts smiles a bit too much looking artificially false.

All these shenanigans are mildly funny. An example are the stand up comic routines during the comedy contest at Burn’s (Jon Lovitz) club. Those routines including the $5000 prize winner are just ok funny at best. The other shenanigans also invoke a tear or two as niceness is pulled out of these stories, which director Marshall is so good at. There are a few genuine funny moments like the runaway trailer with the laptop screen having the image of the East Indian mother as it topples of the table when she says” “Where is everyone gone?”

Marshall has assembled quite the all-star cast. Marshall has got most of the big names, like Julia Roberts, who has worked with him before. Also noticeable is his use of minority groups to play bit parts (like the down-syndrome girl at the film’s start). But then, his film goes in the opposite direction with some very racist East-Indian jokes later on in the film. He also stereotypes East Indians having the mother, for example, always appearing wearing a full sari and always having all Indians speaking with a strong accent.

Midway during the film, the hit song “Photograph” by Ben Shereen is performed, only emphasizing Marshall’s desperation to get his film liked.

Otherwise, MOTHER’S DAY is just the typical Garry Marshall film: mildly entertaining at best and irritatingly full of sentimentality and niceness. As the saying goes, every Marshall story (he cowrite this film) has a happy ending.

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