Netflix come up with another ingenuous save from the slush-pile; a rom-com vehicle developed via Charlize Theron and John Madden, probably at some cost, given a quick re-spray to become an Adam Sandler/ Jennifer Aniston tent-pole for the streaming giant. Presumably the script was inspired by many hoary who-dunnits and husband-wife detective teams as in The Thin Man, and the result plays like something that was old hat in the late 1930’s, yet still works better than most modern structures. Mr and Mrs Spitz (Sandler and Aniston) are taking a vacation when they meet up with a charming viscount (Luke Evans) who invites them to enjoy his family yacht in Monaco. There the Spitz adventure continues when the patriarch (Terence Stamp) is killed before he can change his will, leaving everyone a suspect. The action shifts from the yacht to Monaco and Lake Como,; the exterior filming is lush, the cast, including Gemma Artetron, David Walliams and Ólafur Darri Ólafsson highly recognisable, and despite some groaners, there are real flashes of wit in the deconstruction of mystery conventions. Murder Mystery is one of the better films Netflix have made in terms of satisfying an audience; the worrying thing for the streamer must be that it’s the most ancient wine imaginable poured into the shiniest of new bottles.
Frank Coraci’s 1998 comedy looks back to the 80’s, but seems like a time-capsule of the late 90’s now. Was Adam Sandler ever so charming? Was Drew Barrymore ever so cute? Could rom-coms be so breezy and carefree, light on sex-jokes and with just a few relevant cultural references to pin the story on? Comparing The Wedding Singer with a leaden new generation project like 27 Dresses or Friends With Benefits suggests we didn’t know the good times until they were gone. Sandler plays Robbie, a wedding singer who falls for Julia (Barrymore), but they already have weddings planned to other people. Things are resolved throw a few funny songs from Sandler, great cameos from Steve Buscemi and Jon Lovitz, and a sunny disposition all round; comedy romance seems to have become somewhat sour since 1998, making The Wedding Singer something of a throw-back to a throwback.
Al Pacino’s passion project is a welcome insight into the actor himself, and specifically his passion for Shakespeare’s Richard III. Annoying as it was to see Pacino riffing on Adam Sandler vehicle Jack and Jill by ripping scenes from The Godfather, placing it in the context of a performance of Richard II at least gives a specific context; for a method actor, Pacino has an endearing willingness to send himself up. Looking for Richard alternates his thoughts on the modern day relevance of the play with scenes from an incomplete version of the play. With Pacino as the king, Alec Baldwin as the Duke of Clarence, Winona Ryder as Lady Anne and Kevin Spacey a perfect Earl of Buckingham, the results are surprisingly good, and enough to make it regrettable that Pacino didn’t go the whole hog. His interviews with British actors suggest the American actor felt that the play’s Britishness would prevent him from doing a definitive version, but Looking For Richard suggests Pacino would still have the chops for it.