Though I’ve been looking forward to seeing this film, it was not my first choice for tonight. My plan was to see Alex Garland’s Annihilation, but my local theater didn’t get it and I didn’t want to go way out of town for it on a weeknight. I have a busy weekend ahead, so it will probably be next weekend before I get a chance to see that one, now. That made Game Night my Plan B, though not one that I was upset about. And, hey, at least it’s not The 15:17 to Paris, again, right?
Game Night seems like such a simple and obvious idea that I’m shocked it hasn’t been done, in some form, before now. A friendly game night gone wrong is just ripe with possibilities and co-directors John Francis Daley and Jonathan Goldstein along with screenwriter Mark Perez take full advantage of many of them. Combined with an invigorated cast, the end result is a blast of a movie that succeeds in its efforts to be pure, joyful, escapist entertainment.
Often, filmmakers behind comedies such as Game Night – in which there is an easy and appealing narrative hook – rely on the premise to carry them through and forget that comedies are truly made up of the little moments. One of the keys to humor is surprise. That can refer to an unexpected line or a twist in the story or potentially many other things but the truth remains that a gag isn’t funny if the audience can see it coming. Once the initial set-up was complete, I saw very little of the rest of Game Night coming, both in terms of the big moments and, even more importantly, the small ones.
Once I had involuntarily laughed out loud approximately five or six times before the end of the opening scene, I felt confident that I was in for a good time. Jason Bateman and Rachel McAdams have excellent comedic chemistry together, which I’m not entirely sure I expected, though I have no good reason as to why that would be. I suppose I’m just not accustomed to seeing McAdams in comedic roles (it’s been a while since Mean Girls), so I was subconsciously prepared for her to play more of a straight role while Bateman got all of the laughs. Happily, that wasn’t the case, at all. And as great as they are bouncing off of each other, they’re each just as good on their own, as well. We knew that about Bateman, as he’s still the king of dry delivery (and, yes, he’s the same basic character in this film as he almost always is, but so what? He’s the best there is at playing the exasperated, sarcastic, underachieving guy next door.), but McAdams’s timing and delivery is spot on, too, and they both look like they’re having a lot of fun. And when an audience can pick up on that, it’s contagious.
The entire cast does a great job, but it’s a good thing for McAdams and Bateman that they’re both so great because, were they even slightly lesser performers, they would have been in great danger of being overshadowed every time they shared the screen with Jesse Plemons’s neighbor cop, Gary. Gary is as weird as any character I can recall from recent memory but he’s also charismatic and unequivocally entertaining. Gary gets the most interesting character arc in the film, as well (yes, there are character arcs), and one never really knows what to expect from him, which makes him even more fun. If the film hits it even moderately big, Gary will likely be the breakout character and it wouldn’t even surprise me to see a plethora of Gary memes popping up on all of our social media platforms.
As far as the rest of the film goes, it’s definitely a mix of action, suspense, and comedy, but I’d break it down as approximately twenty-five percent action and suspense and seventy-five percent comedy. The funny stuff takes brief pauses here and there to allow for some plot advancement as well as so the very real stakes can breathe and set in. But the film never forgets that it’s a comedy and, unlike so many movies that are marketed as comedies, it’s genuinely and consistently funny. There’s a scene between Bateman and Adams that takes place in a parking lot, if I remember correctly, that is pure gold (I’ll just say it involves an impromptu medical procedure) and that is probably the highlight for me, personally. But the entire film shines. Whenever the cast shoots for comedy, it scores. That’s rare and immeasurably refreshing.
Game Night is everything that audiences love. It’s a film that lives up to expectations and delivers what it promises. The characters are relatable and just within the realm of believability, which allows for the humor in their situation and reactions to truly click. I can tell you that I wasn’t the only one in my screening who was enjoying themselves; the rest of the audience was laughing constantly and one of the big reveals even got an emotional burst of excitement from the guy sitting two seats to my left, which was way too close to me considering the number of people that was there. That last bit may have been irrelevant to you but what isn’t irrelevant is that Game Night is a winner in every aspect, so if it looks like something you think you might enjoy, I feel confident in saying that you will.
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