Despite Lukewarm Critics, Audiences Flock To Netflix's 'Murder Mystery'
MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:
Finally today, do you love who-done-its, inheritance schemes, shots of the Italian coast? How about Adam Sandler and Jennifer Aniston? Then Netflix has a movie for you. It's called "Murder Mystery," and it's exactly that. It's about an elderly rich guy who's murdered on his yacht, and an unsuspecting American couple - Sandler and Aniston - are caught up in finding the killer, but with all the goofy touches that you'd expect from an Adam Sandler movie.
(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "MURDER MYSTERY")
JENNIFER ANISTON: (As Audrey Spitz) I'm so sorry. Would you like us to leave?
ADAM SANDLER: (As Nick Spitz) We could - I don't know how we're getting out of here though. We're out to sea. Is there an Uber for boats or?
ANISTON: (As Audrey Spitz) Out of the room, Nick.
SANDLER: (As Nick Spitz) Out of the room? We can go out of the room, absolutely.
MARTIN: Well, the critics have been, shall we say, lukewarm. But the audience doesn't care. Netflix is reporting that more than 30 million account holders watched "Murder Mystery" in the first three days it was up on the platform, which would be record-setting numbers. And we don't have any special plans tonight, so we were wondering if "Murder Mystery" should be part of it. So we've called David Sims. He writes about culture at The Atlantic. And he watches films like "Murder Mystery" so we don't have to. David Sims, welcome. Thanks so much for joining us.
DAVID SIMS: Hi. Thank you for having me.
MARTIN: So let me just establish something upfront. As I understand it, there's no independent verification of Netflix numbers. And I've also heard that Netflix only tends to release figures when they have good news. Is this true?
SIMS: Yeah. There's no Nielsen ratings system, no sort of independent agency that oversees companies like Netflix. So it's hard to know any more detail on what that means.
MARTIN: OK. But that's still a lot of humans who watched it (laughter). So what is it that you think works so well on streaming? And I kind of wonder whether you could take this movie and put it in the theater and it would do the same thing.
SIMS: I think that a few decades ago, when the theater experience was the way that everyone took movies in, yes, you could take a movie that was this sort of routine and it'd probably do just fine. But these days, people really only like to go to the theater for really big experiences like global franchise movies, things like that. And so Netflix is putting out the kind of movies that are just sort of light entertainment - comedies, romances that are easy to enjoy but, like, maybe would be hard to justify spending 20, 30 bucks on a movie ticket and popcorn and all that to go see outside of your house. And "Murder Mystery" is like a very big, colorful whodunit in Europe with a bunch of characters who are very wacky. And there's a murder to solve. And Adam Sandler, who is a very recognizable star, and Jennifer Aniston are in the middle of it, sort of trying to put it all together.
MARTIN: But, you know, this weekend, one of the things that interesting things have happened this week is that Netflix announced some of the series that it is canceling for 2019.
MARTIN: You know, what do you think is the calculation here? It would seem like Netflix would be the perfect place for some niche programming, right?
SIMS: Yes. Well, initially, Netflix would order shows and continually renew them. But the company has realized that the more seasons you produce, you're not going to hook in new viewers. And so the sort of dedicated fans of the shows are being taken aback because it's sort of counter to the first few years of the service where, really, nothing got canceled. Because we don't have the ratings data, we really don't know how well any of these things are doing. It's all sort of on word of mouth. And so if Netflix says, well, we're canceling it because the ratings are bad, there's nothing to sort of verify that against.
MARTIN: All right. David, before we let you go, I'm going to put you on the spot here.
MARTIN: Kind of available tonight - kids are at camp, no big plans - should I watch "Murder Mystery" or should I, I don't know, go work out?
SIMS: For one, you could work out and watch "Murder Mystery." You could pretty much do anything and watch "Murder Mystery." That's sort of the point of the movie, I think, is if you want to catch up on your emails, if you want to, like, fold laundry, if you want to go to the gym and just sort of have it on in the background, you're totally going to be able to follow it. So if you just sort of want something to help pass the time, that's that's what it's there for.
MARTIN: That was David Sims. He's a staff writer for The Atlantic, where he writes about culture. David, thanks so much.
SIMS: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.