Double Feature

June 2022 - Every spring, I join a few select friends for a trip to an interactive murder mystery dinner theater at Mount Hope Estates near Lancaster. Sometimes we guess the killer, sometimes not. But the food, drinks, and company are always good. In honor of this year's outing, here are a couple of whodunnits.

One is actually called Murder Mystery. This PG-13 made-for-Netflix movie from 2019 features a yacht and an ever-shrinking list of suspects. The cast includes Adam Sandler, Jennifer Aniston, and Luke Evans. Sandler also brings his real-life wife and daughter along for the ride.

Sandler and Aniston play Nick and Audrey Spitz. He's with the NYPD; she's a hairdresser. Nick can't manage to pass the detective's exam, but he lets Audrey believe that he has. And when their 15-year wedding anniversary arrives, he lets her believe that he has finally planned the European vacation he promised her when they got married.

The trip starts with a long airplane ride in coach. While the passengers sleep, Audrey wanders back to first class. That's where she meets Viscount Charles Cavendish (Evans), nephew of multi-billionaire Malcolm Quince. Cavendish invites the Spitzes to join him on Quince's yacht, where the family is gathering. Once there, Nick and Audrey witness Quince announce that he plans to write a new will and leave everything to his hot, new wife. But, before Quince can put pen to paper, the lights go out. When they come back on, Quince is dead. Stabbed through the heart with a dagger. When Nick and Audrey become the main suspects, they set out to solve the case themselves.

Overall review: Ehhh. It was OK. Not great, but not terrible, either. Sandler and Aniston work well together, and the supporting cast is also entertaining. The murder mystery itself has just enough surprises to keep you guessing.

A better movie is Sea of Love. Al Pacino and Ellen Barkin get hot and heavy in this R-rated film from 1989. John Goodman co-stars, with John Spencer and William Hickey having smaller roles.

Pacino plays NYPD Det. Frank Keller. He's been on the job long enough to retire but doesn't know what he'd do with himself if he did. When a series of murders is tied to rhyming ads placed in a singles' magazine, Keller teams up with another detective (Goodman) to catch the killer.

Working on the theory that the killer is a woman, the detectives place an ad in the magazine, set up dates with the women who respond, and try to get their prints on wine glasses. One of those women is single mom Helen Cruger (Barkin). She cuts out before Keller can get her prints, but he runs into her later and the two embark on a steamy affair. It's not exactly police procedure, and Keller risks making himself the killer's next target.

Overall review: Liked it. The plot here is serviceable, but it's the chemistry between Pacino and Barkin that makes this film go. While the film builds suspense, there’s also some humor to lighten the mood. On the down side, the saxophone music, while not pervasive, still seems overdone, not to mention the repetition of the title song.