Well this is new. A comedy that I’m actually looking forward to. That rhyme was unintentional.
Does anyone else do a weekly game night type thing? I totally did. Me and a few high school buddies got together at someone’s house. Started off playing cards, then board games, then video games, then eventual standard hanging out before we eventually called it quits all together. Already, this movie is pretty appealing on that nostalgia alone.
The story looks like a married couple who go to their game night at a friend’s house and, at first, looks like it’s going to be a shake-up of the norm by making it a murder mystery. But this game ends up being more real than anyone thinks and things start snowballing out of control.
Here’s the cast. Starring, we have Jason Bateman (OFFICE CHRISTMAS PARTY , THE INVENTION OF LYING , and DODGEBALL ), Rachel McAdams (DOCTOR STRANGE , SHERLOCK HOLMES , THE HOT CHICK , and the upcoming DISOBEDIENCE ), and Kyle Chandler (MANCHESTER BY THE SEA , SUPER 8 , KING KONG , and upcoming films FIRST MAN  and GODZILLA: KING OF THE MONSTERS ). In support, we have Lamorne Morris (SANDY WEXLER , BARBERSHOP: THE NEXT CUT , and TV show NEW GIRL [2011 – ongoing]), Jesse Plemons (THE POST , BLACK MASS , LIKE MIKE , and the upcoming THE IRISHMAN ), Michael C. Hall (MARK FELT , GAMER , PAYCHECK , and the upcoming THE GETTYSBURG ADDRESS ), Danny Huston (WONDER WOMAN , CLASH OF THE TITANS , THE AVIATOR , and upcoming films IO  and RICHARD SAYS GOODBYE ), and John Francis Daley (VACATION  and TV show BONES [2005 – 2017]).
Now for the crew. Co-directing, we have John Francis Daley and Jonathan Goldstein, both known for VACATION and the upcoming The Flash movie (2020). Penning the screenplay is Mark Perez, known for ACCEPTED (2006), HERBIE: FULLY LOADED (2005), and THE COUNTRY BEARS (2002). The composer is Cliff Martinez, known for DEN OF THIEVES (2018), THE NEON DEMON (2016), DRIVE (2011), and THE LINCOLN LAWYER (2011). The cinematographer is Barry Peterson, known for JUST GETTING STARTED (2017), SISTERS (2015), JUMPER (2008), ZOOLANDER (2001), and the upcoming THE SPY WHO DUMPED ME (2018). Finally, there are a grand total of three editors: David Egan (A FUTILE AND STUPID GESTURE ), Jamie Gross (A FUTILE AND STUPID GESTURE, POPSTAR , HOT TUB TIME MACHINE 2 , and 7 episodes of TV show DON’T TRUST THE B—- IN APARTMENT 23 [2012 – 2013]), and Gregory Plotkin (HAPPY DEATH DAY , GET OUT , and most of the Paranormal Activity movies).
Overall, this looks so stupid, but oh so fun. I like the cast, all very talented, even the talent behind the scenes looks like a solid series of picks, so I think this’ll be a lot of fun.
This is my honest opinion of: GAME NIGHT
Max (Jason Bateman) and Annie (Rachel McAdams) are a happily married couple, who are very competitive when it comes to their weekly game nights with their friends. Things get a little complicated, though, when Max’s highly successful brother Brooks (Kyle Chandler) is paying them a visit, which stresses out Max a great deal, being a possible contributor to their his and Annie’s unsuccessful attempts at getting pregnant. Brooks hijacks game night the next week and instead their traditional board games, Brooks initiates something different: a high-end murder mystery complete with actors that will kidnap Brooks and whoever finds him, will win his prized car. However, as the game progresses, everyone realizes that the game is probably more real than initially suspected.
Well this is rare. A comedy that I actually like. No, I take that back. That I love.
The best sign of any great movie is when it has you at hello, and GAME NIGHT has a pretty stylish befitting hello. The sequence is a bunch of computer generated game pieces, Monopoly, Sorry, among others, falling down in slow-mo, in a dark backdrop, with a fairly ominous score playing over it all. I was on board with this movie right there and then. All it had to do was… well, not suck at this point. It didn’t. What follows is a pretty adorable opening montage of how Max and Annie met, and their mutually competitive game night exploits and how a game of charades was how Max proposed to Annie. “Cute” is a severe understatement.
Now, everyone should be familiar with Bateman and McAdams. They’re great in most everything that they do and even if the movie isn’t great, they’re not the reason why it’s sub par. This is obviously where they’re at the top of their game. I love how they bounce off of each other. One of my favorite scenes that comes to mind, aside from the entirety of the film, is after Max has been shot in the arm and because they can’t go to the hospital in fear of police involvement, they’re forced to fix his arm with items bought in a drug store and in a back alley. If you’ve seen the trailer, then you know Annie tries going into his arm to look for the bullet and Max bites down on a squeaky toy. As funny as it is, the rest of the scene holds back additional funny elements. Like when he spits the toy out of his mouth and it hits Annie in the face. She taps what she thinks is the bullet with her tweezers, but then realize that it’s bone, and they both start convulsing about to vomit, telling each other to not convulse or else the other will. While I may not think this is the funniest scene in the movie, it’s a great example of the chemistry between the two actors, the direction, and the writing. It’s all fantastic. Oh, and screw Doctor Strange! Replace him with McAdams and a fire extinguisher! That woman is deadly with that shit. In fact, just replace all the Avengers with Annie armed with an extinguisher! She’s got this shit, guys!
But as much as this movie is about Bateman and McAdams, the spotlight isn’t always on them, and if a comedy is going to stray into the supporting cast, that cast better be just as funny too. And that’s exactly what this movie does. You have black couple Michelle (Kylie Bunbury) and Kevin (Lamourne Morris), and odd couple Sarah (Sharon Horgan) and Ryan (Billy Magnussen). Kevin and Michelle are great for a couple of reasons. One, while everyone initially thinks that the kidnapping is still fake, Kevin and Michelle are the only ones playing by the rules, and everyone else is cheating to win Brooks’ stingray car. Plus, there’s a running joke with this couple that, despite being a faithful couple since middle school, there was a brief period that they were broken up and she admits to sleeping with not just any random man, but a celebrity. Essentially, all of their bickering is Kevin jealously trying to figure out who the celebrity in question is and it’s pretty funny. Also… let’s just say he comments on the lack of broken glass tables. It’s funnier than I’m making it out to be.
My absolute favorite couple is Sarah and Ryan. Ryan is established as the good-looking dumb-ass of the group and has a reputation of bringing a new date to game night, all of which are usually dumb, but hot women, which he shamelessly takes pride in. One character calls it out and calls them, “Instagram models.” The first date that we get to know is Madison (Natasha Hall), who was hilarious in that the first thing she does is hold her hand up to Max and Annie, but not in a hand shake gesture. Annie’s reaction is give her a complicated hand shake, but then Max corrects her and kisses the hand, both completely jarred by the fact that Madison immediately went for a hand kiss gesture, instead of the traditional hand shake. But for the rest of the movie, we get arguably the only comic foil in the movie, Sarah, who is shockingly smart and resourceful. I love their banter and her reactions to his utter stupidity. One scene that stands out is this bribery scene, only briefly seen in the trailer. They come to the end of the game that they think they’re playing and essentially want to bribe the game’s character-actor to give them the final clue by bribing her. Ryan pulls out his wallet, and dramatically and slowly slides a bill toward the actor, building up to what we think is going to be a fifty or a hundred, but it’s revealed to be a ten. Pretty funny payoff, and surprisingly still effective when the next bill he slowly and dramatically gives her is a five, and then a one, eventually culminating to a hilarious thirteen dollar bribe. When the actor says she’ll do it for a hundred dollars, Sarah has to complete the bribe with her own money, because Ryan only brought that thirteen dollars, the actor gives them the final clue, but still keeps the thirteen dollars as well. Oh my god, I was laughing so hard.
Oh, and final note: JEFFREY WRIGHT!!! I know his role is brief, but he’s so funny.
Even on some technical levels, this film is so much better than it needs to be. Like the transitions? They’re gorgeous. One that stands out for me is in the aforementioned montage where Max and Annie meet. There’s a bit where they’re making out in the train of a subway and, for whatever reason, the train makes a sudden stop and they fall over. But their fall turns into a pair of dice rolling on a game board. There’s another where there’s an obvious model of the neighborhood they live in, but it almost seamlessly transitions into the real neighborhood. Either that, or it was incredibly convincing CGI.
But if you wanted to get genuinely impressed by a comedy that has good camera work and direction, the winner is hands down the epic egg chase scene. By heavenly Jesus, I thought above and beyond filmmaking was dead in the world of comedy, but this scene was spectacular. The long cuts of the game night crew playing keep-away from the dangerous dudes that originally had the egg. I know there’s plenty of cutaways that were cleverly hidden, but when it’s not cutting away, the shots they manage to capture are ridiculously awesome. From the ground floor to the second, back down via spiraling stairs, in one room and out the other, I usually only see this in action movies that are trying to push some sort of envelope. Never a comedy, but it’s a welcomed scene on more than a few levels.
The clichés are even played with. I feel like in any comedy involving a middle class group living in suburbia, there’s always an annoying or otherwise unlikable neighbor that is legitimately not funny. EXTRACT (2009) comes to mind, which also starred Bateman. This is the only example I can think of, but I’m sure there’s plenty of others. In any case, this movie does it well because Gary is given a legit personality. Yes, his facial expressions are one-note (menacingly creepy) and his vocal inflections are monotone, but he’s given a surprisingly sympathetic backstory. He and his ex-wife used to be part of their game night group up until they divorced. While the ex-wife never makes an appearance in the story, Gary is constantly, week after week, asking Max and Annie if they’re hosting game night and dropping not-so-subtle hints that he’d like to join, to which Max and Annie don’t want to invite him because of how creepy he is. Plus, if I remember correctly, they were closer to the ex-wife than they were to him. But as the story progresses, you do see that he’s more than his exterior lets on. He genuinely cares about those that he considers to be his friends. I especially love the way he shows his enthusiasm by essentially being one of the three kidnapping plots in this movie to demonstrate how fun he can be.
The closest thing to plausibility being thrown out the window… er, as far as the character is concerned, is when we finally get that reveal that he’s one of the kidnapping subplots, he does mention that he knew someone in the group hacked his computer to look at confidential files. But… there’s no consequences for this action. Exactly how many different kinds of illegal is it to hack a police officer’s computer to look at confidential files?! Exactly what kind of trouble would they get Gary into? After all, it’s not like his password was hard to figure out. One would think that the police force, or any law enforcement agency for that matter, would have someone check on the passwords for their employees and make sure no one with bright ideas can get easy access to these things. I work for restaurants, yo. Once, I stupidly wrote about something that was happening with our kitchen and somehow my managers knew what I was saying, despite my settings set to private and none of them added to my friends list. If an out of the way restaurant can know about that shit, I imagine law enforcement would be all over that too! But whatever, making friends, reinstatement into game night, happy ending for all.
While it’s not a complaint, I do have a question. When it’s discovered that the police are under The Bulgarian’s payroll, hence why they wouldn’t be able to go to the police without knowing who to trust, I’m curious on a few factors involving the proceeding scenes with Gary. One, why would they go to Gary? Granted, it’s entirely possible that The Bulgarian and or those under his thumb don’t know who’s involved and how many, but why take that risk by going to Gary’s place and hacking into his computer? And even if they wanted to take that risk, believing that Gary is creepy, not corrupted, why wouldn’t they just ask him for help?
Overall, I love this flick. It’s hilarious in nearly every way possible. The leads are wonderful, the supporting cast is fantastic, the writing, the directing, the camera work, it’s a stupendous feat that I wish I saw more often. I only saw this once in theaters, but I’m already making plans to see it again after posting this review. I certainly wouldn’t even mind owning this on Blu-Ray. I highly recommend this movie to everyone. Drop what you’re doing and go see it. I think it’s that funny. This may not be a game, but it’s one hell of a great time.
My honest rating for GAME NIGHT: 5/5