To put it simply "Murder 101" is a TV movie for those who enjoyed watching Dick Van Dyke in his TV series "Diagnosis Murder". Whilst Dick and his son Barry play different characters it has a very similar feel and in many ways feels like one of those shows stretched out to be of movie length. And that is part of the trouble as whilst watching Dick Van Dyke and his son Barry trying to solve a crime is good fun it is drawn out to the point that at times it becomes boring. Plus as crime stories go it is weak with the emphasis being on being light hearted fun rather than complex and gritty.
When a corporate executive is killed in a bomb explosion at his home everything points to Cheryl Collins (Tracey Needham - Angel in the Family) an investigative journalist who had found work in the company whilst trying to dig the dirt on a corporate scandal. Called in to help with the investigation, private detective Mike Bryant (Barry Van Dyke - Strawberry Summer) asks his old friend and criminologist Dr. Jonathan Maxwell (Dick Van Dyke - Chitty Chitty Bang Bang) to help with the investigation and what they find is a lot of big corporate people with a motive for killing especially when they are trying to cover up financial fraud.
To be blunt if "Murder 101" hadn't featured Dick Van Dyke and his son Barry it would have been terrible, it is the jokey nature of their on screen relationship which makes it entertaining. Without these two what you have is a very weak crime story, some even weaker investigating and the sort of movie where everything falls into place just in the nick of time. It is so weak that you end up paying less and less attention to the actual drama of these two trying to solve the crime and just looking forwards to the next moment of light hearted fun.
And as I mentioned earlier this feels very much like an extended episode of "Diagnosis Murder" just with Dick and Barry playing slightly, and I do mean slightly, different characters. As such we have Dick playing Dr. Jonathan Maxwell a lecturer who specialises in criminology, although his ability to investigate seems to be incredibly poor as he stomps through crime scenes. And then we have Barry not playing his son but playing a long time friend who just happens to be a private investigator, and he plays him in a very similar way to how he played Steve Sloan in "Diagnosis Murder". As I said this is basically Dick and Barry giving us "Diagnosis Murder" just with slightly different characters.
But Dick and Barry work so well together there is great timing between them making many of the lighter moments the most memorable thing. In fact whilst it may be a bit lame that Dick plays Dr. Maxwell as a bit absent minded, and most certainly is repetitive, because he has such a wonderful sense of comic timing that it is still funny despite knowing what's coming when he locks himself out. And to be honest whilst Tracey Needham does reasonably well to make an impression as Cheryl it is Dick and Barry that you end up remembering, especially Barry who considering he was in his 50s when he made "Murder 101" has a physique of a man much younger.
What this all boils down to is that "Murder 101" is really a rather forgettable TV movie which is only entertaining because it stars Dick Van Dyke and his son Barry delivering something very similar to "Diagnosis Murder". As such this is really a movie for those who enjoyed the humour of "Diagnosis Murder" and anyone who comes to this without having seen any of the shows will most likely find it very poor.