If you grew up in the 90’s like I did, you are very familiar with Adam Sandler. He was an institution in 1990’s comedy, both through Saturday Night Live as well as the cinema. To this day, I still have a clear memory of going to the theater to see one of his early movies with my family. It was my choice, and when my parents settled in to watch “Billy Madison”, I don’t think we lasted more than 8 minutes. I’m fairly certain the credits were still rolling when my mother grabbed me by the arm, pulled me out of the theater, and demanded our money back.
Since that moment, the youthful me loved every movie that Sandler put out. I could (and still can!) quote “Billy Madison” and ” Happy Gilmore” with my friends, and I could watch and re-watch all his 90’s and early 2000’s movies with reckless abandon. They were mindless brain candy, but they were fun, silly and made you laugh, even if they left you with little inspiration or a deeper message. There was something honest about his brand of humor back in those days.
Things started to go downhill quickly after that.
Many of his movies since that era were not met with the same enthusiasm as his earlier works. A big part of the problem, in my opinion, was that you now had a middle-aged man in his 40’s (and now 50’s) trying to create the same kind of movies he did in his mid 20’s. There was something sad and awkward about watching this man struggle and try so desperately to win our laughter. He was begging for it, and we watched with a grimace as his movies grew less and less funny. His movies started to be relegated to “made for TV”, and he has become somewhat of a footnote for the younger generations.
Now, enter Murder Mystery.
I was vaguely aware it had even been released on Netflix. I tried to watch a few of his last movies, but most of them became the kind of background movies you put on when you’re paying bills or trying to fill the last half hour before you pass out for the night. If it wasn’t for my wife, I most likely wouldn’t have even watched this one.
I’m glad I did.
The movie was well written, well paced, and well acted. It created characters you care about, and there are multiple layers to the main characters, as well as the storyline itself. The best part was that Adam Sandler tamed his humor, and you could visibly see him pull it back and contain his usual silly and uncontrolled delivery. It seemed as though he had come full circle and finally accepted his age. He finally acts his age in this movie, and as a result, it is funny, and more importantly, honest.
A key factor to the success of Murder Mystery, beyond Sandler’s recognition and acceptance of his age, are the actors cast in this movie. Jennifer Aniston, who was cast as his wife and Luke Evans as a supporting actor both helped to ground Sandler, and keep him contained. As a result, Sandler’s performance showed more maturity, honesty and quality. Rather than casting his friends in the movie and recreating another drunken bachelor party sort of film, the casting of two serious and proven actors helped elevate this movie, which in my mind, greatly helped it’s success.
Murder Mystery is finally a Sandler movie worth watching. It’s refreshing, entertaining, and funny…but in a way that doesn’t beg you for laughter.
And because of that, we do laugh. Peter Pan has finally realized he’s not a child anymore.
I hope to see more Adam Sandler films like this in the future.