This will be Sandler’s sixth Netflix collaboration, but it sounds less like ‘The Meyerowitz Stories’ than we’d prefer.
Jennifer Aniston should be getting better projects. She’s never really been part of bad ensemble casts and can hold her own in starring roles. However, the overall results of her movies tend to be less-than-stellar.
There is some hope for the untitled morning show series she has in the works at Apple with Reese Witherspoon, which would see Aniston’s first tangible return to the serial format since Friends. But now that Variety reports that Aniston is due to star in Adam Sandler‘s latest Netflix comedy, Murder Mystery, it’s evident that her career continues to be up and down.
In Murder Mystery, Sandler and Aniston will play a husband and wife who go vacationing in Europe only to end up implicated in the murder of an elderly billionaire. Kyle Newacheck (Workaholics) has boarded the project as director and will work from a script by James Vanderbilt (The Losers).
The most concerning thing about Murder Mystery is the reputation that Sandler’s Netflix comedies have unwittingly garnered. Most of them hold dismal ratings from critics and barely acceptable audience reactions. His only true hit happens to be The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected), which found a lot of its merit through Noah Baumbach’s direction and script. Sandler isn’t even totally hopeless in terms of acting ability. He has shown the propensity to be good when his director is — see also: Paul Thomas Anderson’s Punch-Drunk Love. And both The Meyerowitz Stories and Punch-Drunk Love are suitably comedic in their own right too, so genre doesn’t seem to be the whole problem. At the same time, Sandler insists on churning out consistently bad, formulaic movies and Netflix’s high-quantity output model has served him “well” for many years.
Aniston suffers a similar issue of being in movies not worth her mettle. At the very least, her roles are usually memorable in such films. Some of them will be terrible, of course; the Horrible Bosses series makes sure of that. Office Christmas Party and We’re the Millers remind us of Aniston’s potential to lead movies, even if the films themselves fall flat. Yet, her dramatic roles don’t totally land either. Cake is a particularly difficult movie to sit through, only because the narrative circumstances encasing Aniston’s admirable performance don’t result in a subtle, identifiable story in the slightest.
Sandler and Aniston don’t prove to be as much of a dynamic duo either. They have worked together once before, in the romantic comedy Just Go with It, a remake of the 1969 Gene Saks movie Cactus Flower. Unfortunately, Just Go With It turned out to be yet another vacant comedy where a male protagonist (Sandler) realizes he can do douchey things — namely, serial deception — to get women to like him. Aniston’s character finds herself caught up in some lies herself and ends up being fake married to Sandler for her own petty purposes. I enjoy a good fake marrieds trope in a cheesy rom-com every now and then, but Just Go with It isn’t really endearing enough to make any of its archetypal portrayals work.
So, is there any hope Murder Mystery will rise up above the rest of Sandler’s Netflix formula, even if it sounds totally generic? Vanderbilt has written good films before; The Losers is fun enough as an action-based comic book adaptation, and he worked on David Fincher’s Zodiac. Newacheck’s work in TV shows like Community and Parks and Recreation has been well-received. Maybe this writer-director duo could lift the immediate pessimistic impression that Murder Mystery inspires. Or the odds of the film being anything more than what we’re expecting remain dire and for Aniston’s part, the movie may just be talent wasted yet again.