Game Night: Film Review

Any typ­i­cal night spent hang­ing out with your friends may in­volve drink­ing, mean­ing­ful con­ver­sa­tions and play­ing fun games like cha­rades or Pic­tionary, to name just a cou­ple. And, of course, make sure noth­ing goes wrong dur­ing the night, oth­er­wise, just like the char­ac­ters in the lat­est dark com­edy “Game Night,” you might be in for some­thing en­tirely dif­fer­ent.

Max (Ja­son Bate­man) and An­nie (Rachel McAdams) are a com­pet­i­tive cou­ple that hosts a weekly cou­ples game night. But when Max’s suc­cess­ful older brother, Brooks (Kyle Chan­dler), turns up want­ing to kick their night up a level, he arranges a mur­der mys­tery party. Every­thing seems to go well un­til Brooks is ac­tu­ally kid­napped, and every­one else thinks it’s all part of the game.

As with many re­cent come­dies, I was­n’t re­motely ex­cited about check­ing out “Game Night.” The tal­ent in­volved in­cludes some of my fa­vorites, di­rec­tors John Fran­cis Da­ley and Jonathan M. Gold­stein are two names that, in my books, should­n’t go to­gether. They were re­spon­si­ble for writ­ing and di­rect­ing the “Va­ca­tion” re­boot, which was the sec­ond-worst movie of 2015, an un­funny and mean-spir­ited en­try to the fran­chise. But early word from peo­ple I know said it was hi­lar­i­ous. With low ex­pec­ta­tions walk­ing into the R-rated “Game Night,” I found my­self with my first sur­prise of 2018.

For a com­edy that’s meant to be out­ra­geous, “Game Night” was ac­tu­ally well shot and styl­ish at cer­tain times, with a cou­ple car chases and one cool se­quence in­volv­ing the char­ac­ters re­triev­ing an item that they need. These peo­ple are re­ally con­vinced that every­thing is planned un­til some­one ex­plains to them that this is­n’t a part of the game.

The jokes here are very funny. I thought I was go­ing to have about three laughs through the en­tire film, but I very much un­der­es­ti­mated the film’s hu­mor: I was con­stantly laugh­ing. Screen­writer Mark Perez is bet­ter at writ­ing com­edy here than with “Ac­cepted.” Hav­ing the char­ac­ters think that every­thing is all a part of the game does keep it fresh with the ma­te­r­ial the cast is given. Sur­pris­ingly enough, the script has pop cul­ture ref­er­ences that ac­tu­ally did­n’t get an­noy­ing. This turned out be one of the bet­ter dark come­dies to come out since the first “Hor­ri­ble Bosses,” an­other funny Bate­man movie.

Jason Bateman, Rachel McAdams, Sharon Horgan, Lamorne Morris, Billy Magnussen, and Kylie Bunbury in Game Night (2018)

The chem­istry be­tween both Bate­man and McAdams was spot-on. They’ve both dab­bled in the com­edy genre be­fore, Bate­man a num­ber of times, and they had a lot of mo­ments that re­ally worked in their fa­vor with good comedic tim­ing. No won­der McAdams is my Cana­dian crush, she’s al­ways worth watch­ing; she al­ways has that charm. In my opin­ion, she does­n’t get enough credit for her ex­cel­lent roles in come­dies.

Be­sides them, there’s Billy Mag­nussen (“Into the Woods”) and Sharon Hor­gan (“Cat­a­stro­phe”) as Ryan and Sarah, a cou­ple on their first date; and Lam­orne Mor­ris (“New Girl”) and Kylie Bun­bury (“Pitch”) as Kevin and Michelle, who are an­other mar­ried cou­ple that re­veal that Michelle might’ve slept with a celebrity (solid pay off). The best part of this en­sem­ble cast is that each char­ac­ter had a chance to shine, and none of them are wasted.

If there’s any­body that’s go­ing to be talked about af­ter this film’s out of the­atres, it’s Jesse Ple­mons (Todd from “Break­ing Bad”) as Gary, Max and An­nie’s re­cently di­vorced po­lice of­fi­cer who wants to join in their game nights. He plays creepy in the fun­ni­est and most dead­pan way imag­in­able, hold­ing his puppy and try­ing to make con­ver­sa­tion. I loved every scene he was in.

Jason Bateman, Rachel McAdams, Lamorne Morris, Billy Magnussen, and Kylie Bunbury in Game Night (2018)

It’s not a per­fect com­edy, how­ever. There were cer­tain prob­lems that came with it. A hand­ful of jokes weren’t that well ex­e­cuted, and some tonal el­e­ments did­n’t ex­actly fit some of the scenes that were try­ing to be more se­ri­ous. And though Mag­nussen did a fine job, there was a pe­riod where the script was play­ing the “id­iot card” a lit­tle too much.

The film has its twists and turns, and though it comes off as briefly cheap at a cou­ple mo­ments, it’s at least silly, and it works for “Game Night.” It keeps you guess­ing what’s go­ing to hap­pen. This goes to show that this is the type of dark com­edy stu­dios should take learn from (take some notes “Rough Night”). This still does­n’t make me ex­cited about Da­ley/​Gold­stein di­rect­ing “Flash­point,” but I’m keep­ing my fin­gers crossed that they’ll do a solid job. “Game Night” is­n’t go­ing to end up be­ing the fun­ni­est movie of the year, but it’s sure en­ter­tain­ing for all it could give.

Game Night”’s dark, yet hi­lar­i­ous premise could’ve been lame, but with a funny cast and a well-done script, it’s a ma­jor sur­prise. Grade: B

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