Game Night (2018)
Game Night (2018)

Genre: Crime Comedy Running Time: 1 hr. 40 min.

Release Date: February 23rd, 2018 MPAA Rating: R

Director: John Francis Daley, Jonathan Goldstein Actors: Jason Bateman, Rachel McAdams, Jesse Plemons, Billy Magnussen, Kyle Chandler, Kylie Bunbury, Lamorne Morris, Chelsea Peretti, Michael C. Hall, Danny Huston

 


 

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t’s love at first sight when overly competitive game enthusiasts Max (Jason Bateman) and Annie (Rachel McAdams) meet at a bar room trivia contest. Soon, the couple’s own game nights are the highlight of the week for everyone invited, including regular attendees Kevin (Lamorne Morris), Michelle (Kylie Bunbury), and Ryan (Billy Magnussen). When Max’s more charming, more handsome, and more successful older brother Brooks (Kyle Chandler) arrives in town for a visit, he quickly commandeers game night, much to the chagrin of the jealous younger sibling. Promising an epic competition that will never be forgotten, Brooks hires a professional murder mystery company to orchestrate a kidnapping and an elaborate hunt for clues that will eventually leave one lucky contestant with the keys to the cocky capitalist’s brand new sports car. But when the game gets underway, with gangsters crashing the party and absconding with the baffled host, the unwitting participants will have to band together to solve a crime that may or may not involve real criminals and real consequences.

Having met during a trivia contest, proposed during a game night, and refused to stop playing games even while at a hospital, Max and Annie have certainly taken competitiveness to the next level. At the root of the story is a lesson about outgrowing oneupmanship and ridding themselves of the jealousy toward couples who have matured to the stage of parenthood – yet the wholly unrealistic plot only loosely manages to ferry Max and Annie to this graduating point of adult sophistication. More important – at all times – is having jokes thrown at the audience, many of which have nothing to do with the characters themselves or their journey.

This actually works to the film’s advantage, however. The funniest bits are asides (like flashback montages) or running gags, which simply jab at unrelated things. Countless movie references, a preoccupation with glass tables, and extreme unintelligence are but a few of the best examples. Candid sex talks, an ultra weird neighbor (Jesse Plemons steals more than one scene as creepy policeman Gary Kingsbury), and a mischievous dog further add to the hilarity; they’re all part of uncomfortable moments that escalate into deliriously over-the-top slapstick. The laughs are consistent, almost as if a non-comedic script was inundated with jokes, though many will be forgotten well before the movie concludes. Additionally, the casting is keen (everyone plays well off their counterparts and there are no annoying roles – at least with the leads) and several juxtapositions or precisely edited sequences bolster the comedy. One of “Game Night’s” strong points is its ability to criticize its own components, including the deficiencies in the game itself.

What doesn’t work as well is the storyline, which lends itself to severe situations that frustrate the humor. When the big game gets underway, it resembles something like “A Perfect Getaway,” “The Tourist,” or “The Game” (which are outright thrillers) before taking cues from “Date Night” or the recent “Central Intelligence” and “Rough Night” (which are comedies with thrills). As can be expected, flashes of blood and violence never seem appropriate or compatible amidst the sillier notions of promiscuity with a celebrity or embarrassing stories of adolescent experimentation. Actual gunshot wounds must be treated with general dismissiveness, otherwise the reality would be too harsh.

The same goes for the various villains, who behave as if in a comedy; rather than scripting the film to lighten up on the seriousness, the characters must betray normalcy to better fit insincere resolutions. Ultimately, it all exists in an undeniable fantasy. The laughs are still there, and the protagonists are likable, but the execution is choppy at times, mainly thanks to an insistence on incorporating unsparing personas into what should have been a routinely lighthearted series of misadventures. When death is supposed to be a genuine factor in a comedy like this, the dour recognition of mortality ends up competing against the straightforwardness of a mirthful good time.

– The Massie Twins

  • 6/10