REVIEW: “GAME NIGHT”
Review by David Baldwin for Mr. Will Wong
A group of friends meet for a weekly game night at the home of Max (Jason Bateman) and Annie (Rachel McAdams). Max’s overbearing and overachieving brother Brooks (Kyle Chandler) joins the group one week, and then invites them over to his house for his own game night. He plans a murder mystery for the group, but ends up getting kidnapped for real. Thinking it is all part of the game, the group starts combing through clues about his disappearance – but quickly realize they are all in over their heads.
The Plot may sound silly – and everything that happens might be even sillier – but Game Night is a whole lot of fun anyway. Mark Perez’s Script consistently is hilarious, delivering one laugh after the next. While it becomes slightly predictable (and over-choreographs a few too many of its jokes), it also has a habit of subverting expectations with its darker-themed humour. It helps that John Francis Daley and Jonathan Goldstein are confident and surprisingly inventive in their direction, marrying the high-concept Comedy with the underpinnings of an Action-Thriller quite well. Their intriguing staging and Barry Peterson’s camera work are stronger than I ever imagined, and Cliff Martinez’s Score is just as thrilling as it is delightful.
The fun Script and solid direction would be worthless if not for the Film’s excellent Ensemble. Chandler, Billy Magnussen, Sharon Horgan, Kylie Bunbury and New Girl’s Lamorne Morris are all terrifically funny acting together or on their own. Jesse Plemons steals every scene he pops into, delivering a sad sap routine that quickly becomes absolutely uproarious. Bateman is his usual straight-laced self here, rarely stretching beyond the mold of every comedic performance he’s given since Arrested Development. But his work here is elevated by his impeccable chemistry with McAdams. She has not had a zany role like this since Wedding Crashers, so she goes for broke on every single scene and joke to great effect. She is clearly having the most fun out of everyone in the Cast.
Beyond insane leaps of logic and some rather baffling twists (including making the audience believe Bateman and Chandler could be friends with a group of people 20+ years younger than themselves), Game Night’s biggest stumbling block is in its odd references and crucial desire to feel relevant to 2018. It name-drops and pays homage to 90s Films like Pulp Fiction and Fight Club as if they were groundbreakingly unique. And immediately after these nostalgic inclusions drop, Perez’s Script then pivots and shoe-horns in more current references to the likes of Buzzfeed and Instagram. These moments lead to some fun jokes, but it all feels too specific, finely tuned and completely inorganic. Even the actors appear to be struggling to get through their dialogue in these scenes.
I avoided seeing the Trailer for Game Night before I watched it – and I am glad I did. The Film is downright hilarious throughout its running time, even through its moments of odd references and gnarly violence. Bateman and McAdams have great chemistry, and lead an excellent Ensemble of hysterical supporting actors. It may teeter on the line of being too ridiculous, but I have no doubt you will want to join all your friends for this Game Night.
Warner Bros. Pictures Canada release GAME NIGHT on Friday, February 23, 2018.