Film Review: Game Night (2018)

2018 in Cinema:

Game Night, 2018

Directed by: John Francis Daley, Jonathan Goldstein

Starring: Jason Bateman, Rachel McAdams, Billy Magnussen, Sharon Horgan, Lamorne Morris, Kylie Bunbury, Jesse Plemons, Michael C. Hall, Kyle Chandler

 

As a fan of having game nights with my own group of friends, I was certainly excited about seeing this film after seeing its first trailer, and I’m very thankful that it turned out to be a whole lot of fun. Game Night quickly introduces the romantic history of Max (Jason Bateman) and Annie (Rachel McAdams), including a proposal during a game of charades (which in hindsight knowing their characters was actually a pretty sweet idea), and then we cut to the present and meet their friends, Ryan (Billy Magnussen, Ingrid Goes West), his date Sarah (Sharon Horgan), Kevin (Lamorne Morris), his wife Michelle (Kylie Bunbury), uninvited neighbour Gary (Jesse Plemons, Hostiles) and Max’s financially well-off brother Brooks (Kyle Chandler) through various quick scenes. Brooks’ plan is to host a murder-mystery night, upping the game levels from the usual Pictionary/charades they play, but when two people break in and violently assault and kidnap Brooks it becomes a mystery as to whether it is all part of their plan or legitimately happening. Most of the early comedy comes from this lack of clear understanding (such as having the main six sat watching Brooks being assaulted and kidnapped, only moving to get more dip on their chips/crisps), but soon introduces a new comedic element to each couple (Max and Annie want a baby, but Max’s jealousy of Brooks seems to be preventing that, Ryan and Sarah are confused as to whether their on a date or not as Ryan normally takes younger, more conventionally attractive girls than the slightly more age-appropriate, smart woman he’s brought, and Kevin finds out Michelle has slept with a celebrity, a surprise with them two having been together since middle-school), and as they split to solve the game the comedic elements lead to bickering.

One of the first things that’s noticeably good about this film is its visual presentation: from the way it almost transforms from an aerial view of a game-town to the real town that Max and Annie live in to the way it utilises game pieces in the intro and outro. Not just those, though, there’s some great visuals and hilarious props used throughout.

This film is hilarious, even though most of the better jokes were ruined by its trailer, and it kept me laughing all the way through. The acting is pretty fine, not too surprising considering the cast, and they made us believe a lot of their personal stories all the way through. It’s not a too serious drama, and a lot of the writing and plot elements do prevent a too serious acting performance that would engage an audience more, incidents such as being trapped on a race to save someone’s life but switching the tone quickly to discuss his wife’s past infidelity takes away a realism element. But it’s still a solid performance from each member. I also really liked the idea of having this confusion of whether it’s real or fake, even though it comes across as being real, the idea of a swerve is constantly present throughout and always leave the air of mystery.

The plot progression is quite nicely done, too, with it appearing a relatively short film (I know it’s only 100 minutes but it feels even shorter). However it has a few storytelling issues, mainly with the murder mystery game being quickly forgotten about as an actual game (two teams try and cheat to win and one gets stuck in a room), so it is just used to start the plot without being continued onwards with. It also feels as if the comedy element is trying to stand out louder than the action/thriller/crime elements. While that may be a good thing, as it’s marketed as a comedy, the realism, as I mentioned earlier, prevents us from truly investing into the story or the characters, and considering the level of danger they eventually get into it’s quite disappointing. I also hated the stereotypical dynamic between the two brothers; so stereotypical in-fact that it’s the third film this year to utilise it. One brother is a rich, careless bachelor (much like Kyle (Owen Wilson) in Father Figures) while the other is a rather dull, monogamous-seeking/living man with a sensible job (like Ed (Peter Reynolds) in Father Figures). It’s not reserved to brothers, as two characters from The Hangover, Phil (Bradley Cooper), the leader of the Wolfpack, and Stu (Ed Helms), a dentist with a domineering wife, are presented as the same. I knew where it was going the second he turned up with his fancy car and nice big home and a spare-no-expense attitude; and it followed the path to the letter and that was quite disappointing.

Overall, though, it is a very entertaining action-comedy film, with solid performances and laugh-out-loud moments throughout; it just suffers from being not very adventurous with its character dynamics and a lack of realism prevents us from fully investing in their situations.

 

 

Plot: * * * *     Acting: * * *     Writing: * * *     Presentation: * * * * *

Overall Rating: * * * ¾

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