In recent years, the murder mystery genre has roared back to life. Rian Johnson’s Knives Out in 2019 was a critical and commercial success, and its 2022 sequel, Glass Onion, somehow exceeded the original, becoming one of Netflix’s most popular movies of all time. On the small screen, Only Murders in the Building has racked up Emmy nods and audience goodwill with its intricate plots and cast of unforgettable suspects.
Before all of those movies and shows, however, there was the Netflix comedy thriller Murder Mystery, which came out in mid-2019 to lukewarm reviews but massive viewership, thanks to stars Adam Sandler and Jennifer Aniston’s warm rapport with each other. Success begets success, and now there’s Murder Mystery 2 with the same stars but a different plot, setting, and director, Jeremy Garelick. Digital Trends talked to Garelick about the challenges of helming a comedy sequel, how he didn’t disrupt the natural chemistry shared between Sandler and Aniston, and what his favorite murder mysteries are both past and present.
Digital Trends: With the recent successes of Only Murders in the Building and the Knives Out movies, there seems to be a revival of the comedy murder mystery. What does Murder Mystery 2 add to this subgenre?
Jeremy Garelick: Well, the murder mystery genre has always been around and has been popular with audiences, but people nowadays want to participate a little bit more in what they are watching. They want a little bit more of an interactive experience. And when you’re watching a murder mystery, you’re playing a game with the characters and trying to figure it out who did it.
You’re led down one path and you think you’re smart, but then the rug is pulled underneath your feet and it makes you think that you’re not as smart as you thought you were. With Murder Mystery 2, I wanted viewers to feel like they are actively participating in the mystery and have fun with it.
You seem like a fan of the genre. Do you have any favorites?
Well, Murder Mystery 1, Murder Mystery 2 for sure. I actually love the Knives Out series. I thought they were incredible. I really love Clue and Murder on the Orient Express, both the 1974 version and the recent one directed by Kenneth Branagh. It’s not just films though; for instance, I enjoyed Only Murders in the Building on Hulu.
Another director, Kyle Newacheck, helmed the first Murder Mystery. What is that like when you’re coming in and somebody else has already established the tone and the central relationship between Adam Sandler and Jennifer Aniston’s characters?
Well, I look at Murder Mystery 2 not as a sequel, but as a standalone film. And regardless of whether or not you’ve seen the first one, I want you to be able to just come into this movie and be able to watch and enjoy it.
Now there are some shout-outs to the first movie, of course, but there are also a lot of brand-new characters, a different style of music, a lot of action, and more romance than what the first one had. I wasn’t trying to compete or build off the first one. I wanted to start fresh.
One of the best things about Murder Mystery 2 is the chemistry between Adam Sandler and Jennifer Aniston, which reminded me a bit of the Old Hollywood detective couples like Nick and Nora Charles in The Thin Man, only grumpier and more real. How did you work with them to develop that chemistry?
Well, I think that they’ve worked together forever. This is the third movie they’ve done together so they have a natural chemistry. They’re always trying to make each other laugh. They’re always kind of poking at each other like an old married couple. And that’s something you can’t create. I didn’t direct that. That’s just what they do.
You can’t direct chemistry; it’s either there or it isn’t. I just try to stay out of the way. And they’re both brilliant by themselves and they’re incredible professionals. They’re funny and they’re both so likable that you’re rooting for them to be together. You’re rooting for them as a couple because you love them both as individuals.
You’ve written and directed a number of comedies like The Wedding Ringer and The Binge. What is the secret to making a good comedy?
Well, it’s really simple: you’ve got to have funny people in your movie. Don’t try to do a comedy without funny people. Make sure that the people that you’re pointing the camera at are the funniest people in the world and your job is easy.
Murder Mystery 2 is already a hit. Would you be up to returning to direct Murder Mystery 3?
Yeah. It’d be really fun to do it again. It would be great to get the gang back together and destroy other buildings in another exotic location. [Laughs].
Murder Mystery 2 is now streaming on Netflix.
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