Game Night: A Fun Comedy That Lands On Laughs
Review by Aaron Haughton
Finally, the harmless and vanilla game night gets a little more interesting! With a fantastic ensemble cast, some pitch-perfect cameos, and outlandish hijinks, Game Night succeeds in being a fun film that hits the majority of its laughs. With a script from Mark Perez, whose writing resume (made up of Accepted and The Country Bears) is nothing to really boast about, and tag-team direction from Jonathan Goldstein and John Francis Daley (the duo who co-wrote The Horrible Bosses films and wrote and directed the horrendous Vacation remake), there was a lot of cause for concern with just how well Game Night would play... So, the question remains: is Game Night just a fun and forgettable night out, or is the film a genuinely solid slice of comedy filmmaking?
Surprising as it may seem, despite the writer and director's previous works, Game Night pops and sparkles with a bit of freshness. The story is pretty much David Fincher's The Game meets midlife adult board game night, but the Perez's writing is pretty tight, and his script is teeming with zippy quips and witty dialogue wrapped in scene after scene of absurd, non-reality scenarios that lend themselves to the comedy. The shining quality of Game Night's writing, however, is how it effectively sets up the characters, and how it calls back and delivers on its previously set up jokes, like the Denzel Washington "encounter". The direction is also crisp and energetic, giving the film a decent amount of stylish charm that sets it apart visually from other comedies — the best instance being the establishing shots that take on the presence of The Game of Life.
The cast is truly the film's bread and butter, and Jason Bateman and Rachel McAdams shine at the forefront. Very rarely do I feel like Bateman's talents are fully utilized (like they are in Arrested Development), but Game Night pegs Bateman accurately, which results in one of his best performances to date, and even provides him with an adequate counterpart in McAdams, who shows she's just as quick-witted and capable of dishing it back. They share real chemistry together that leaps off the screen and prove that they should team up for string of other projects. Bateman and McAdams make Game Night fun and charming, but the supporting cast make up a majority of the big laughs.
Chief among them is Jesse Plemmons as Gary, the cop next door. He is excellently creepy and awkward, embracing his sad divorcee role with open arms. Any scene with him involved is fantastic and gives way to a lot of laughs. Outside of Plemmons, Lamorne Morris shines with his Denzel Washington impression that will likely live on in infamy for awhile. Billy Magnussen (Elizabeth Olsen’s brother in Ingrid Goes West) also delivers a quality performance as the handsome, yet dimwitted blond. His female counterpart, played by Sharon Horgan, is also pretty great, and the clear difference in their character's intellect results in some pretty great moments.
The jokes and humor are pretty concise. Most of the jokes hit their mark, but there are a few stinkers in the bunch, which isn't enough to drag Game Night down into the pits of the immediately forgettable. For a high stakes comedy, it stands out a bit from the rest and is strengthened by solid performances from the entire cast. The film makes for a fun night out to the movies, and it gets even better if a bit of alcohol is involved. Next time you plan on having a game night, toss the board games aside and try this comedy out instead.
Rating: 3.5 bloodstained dogs outta 5.
What did you think? Did Game Night deliver the goods? Is it one of Bateman's best performances? We want to know. Share your thoughts and feelings in the comments section below, and as always, remember to viddy well!