By Johnathan Bonham.
Game Night was damn near exactly what I was hoping for. I always get excited for R-rated Jason Bateman movies where he’ll have the chance to be his usual, sarcastic self, and oh boy do we get that here. I’ve really enjoyed the more serious and dramatic turn that Bateman has taken in recent works such as Ozarks and The Gift, but it’s hard to beat him in this kind of role. Directors John Francis Daily and Jonathan Goldstein did an awesome job at getting together a great cast, paired it with a hilarious script, and made what I would consider to be a refreshingly original movie (which I’d like to emphasise because that’s not very common at all nowadays).
Game Night starts off with Max (Bateman) and Annie (Rachel McAdams) first meeting at trivia night in a bar. After crossing paths and learning of their deep devotion to all types of games they fall in love, get married, and start a weekly game night with some of their best friends. Flash forward to present day and we learn that Max’s older brother, Brooks (Kyle Chandler), is back in town, and after joining the weekly game night offers to host one himself. The following week the crew joins Brooks at his rental house for a new kind of game night where he explains that one of the participants will be captured, and whoever finds the kidnapped first wins the game and a new car (which also happens to be Max’s dream car).
Shortly after, two armed men break into the house and kidnap Brooks, which the others believe is just part of the game. After beginning the game and starting to follow various clues that have been laid out they come to realise that the game is much more real than they’d anticipated, and there might even be lives at stake.
I didn’t mean to write such a serious review, but I couldn’t help it. Based on that it sounds like this is similar to David Fincher’s thriller, The Game, starring Michael Douglas. I would say that parts of the movie reminded me of The Game, mainly with the crazy twists and turns that pop up throughout. The difference is Game Night also has a very strong sense of Horrible Bosses humour mixed in, except with much better writing. I enjoyed Horrible Bosses because I love Bateman and Jason Sudeikis, but at its core I felt that the writing was weak aside from some great one-liners. Also, arguably the funniest character in Horrible Bosses, Colin Farrell, was killed off way too soon.
The writing in Game Night, however, did not lack wit whatsoever, and I thoroughly enjoyed the number of movie references that they not so subtly mixed in (I have a deep appreciation for well-utilised movie references). The cast is just awesome. I thought that everyone did a phenomenal job, and had me losing my shit at one point or another. Bateman is his run of the mill self, aka he’s fantastic. He was sarcastic, he was a smart ass, and I loved every minute of it. Not to be outshined, Rachel McAdams did more than hold her own playing Bateman’s wife. This is first time I’ve seen McAdams do full blown comedy, mainly because in Wedding Crashers she played the target of Owen Wilson’s affection and wasn’t given an overly funny part (if she’s been in other comedies I’m not slighting those, I just haven’t seen them). But man did she knock this out of the park. Her and Bateman had great rapport, and all their scenes together just flowed.
I’m a huge Lamorne Harris fan from his work on New Girl as Winston, so you can imagine how thrilled I was to see him playing a Winston-esque character here. He meshed well with the game night group and was very funny as the self-conscious husband that is relentlessly upset about his wife’s old hook up (which is a ridiculous thing that I’m sure most people can relate to). Newcomer (at least to me) Billy Magnusson was hilarious in this as the shallow, dim-witted, asshole friend of the group. Kyle Chandler played the charismatic and charming, yet dickish older brother to Bateman. He also got the chance to show off his fighting chops in a well-choreographed kidnapping scene against two assailants. Altogether though, he was just fine. It wasn’t really his fault, he wasn’t really given a role to shine in. Finally, we had another Friday Night Lights alum, Jesse Plemmons, who did a wonderful job in channelling his best Ron Swanson as the awkward, intense, stoic and polite next door neighbour.
I think my one main gripe would have to be the ending. I thought at one point that they were wrapping things up, but then another twist was thrown in and the movie was extended. I was okay with this because I was enjoying the movie, but then it got a little over the top (not that it wasn’t already). Having said that, I did appreciate that the actual ending wasn’t super drawn out and that they moved it along rather quickly. I also liked that the directors were self-aware of their film, so they balanced some standard clichés by making jokes out of them.
I loved this film. It had me laughing out loud virtually the entire time, and was a fun watch. The writing was clever and witty, and didn’t rely on over-the-top, vulgar humour to try and force laughs. Per usual, I was able to see this movie for next to nothing thanks to MoviePass, but I would highly recommend paying to see a matinee for this film to catch it sooner rather than later.
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