Remember back to the days of Blockbuster (when you had to go to a store and rent a movie)? You always got a couple movies: there was the movie you got for yourself, there was the movie you got to watch with your family, and there was the movie you got to watch with your friends. That third movie with friends didn’t have to be anything great or special, just something at least mildly entertaining that was fun for a single watch. Then, afterward, you’d returned the movie and probably never felt the need to watch it again. Game Night is that third movie you rented at Blockbuster.
Game Night is a comedy starring the likes of Jason Bateman, Rachel McAdams , Kyle Chandler, Billy Magnussen, Kylie Bunbury, and Jesse Plemons (among others) and follows a group of friends who like to have game nights with one another. Trying to spice things up a notch, Kyle Chandler’s character hires an acting group to stage a murder mystery party game. Soon a few thugs come bursting through the room kidnapping Chandler for real while the group believes it all to be a game. Slowly they begin to discover the truth as the mayhem of the night ensues.
Game Night actually has a great premise for a lighthearted comedy. The plot does allow for a lot of fun scenarios and when the writing/tone of Game Night are on point, this movie is a lot of fun. But Game Night also makes a lot of mistakes in it’s approach that makes for an uneven experience.
The biggest strength of the movie is the star-studded cast. There aren’t any weak links and each actor performs their roles quite well. The standouts are Jason Bateman and Rachael McAdams as a married couple that is looking to take the next step in life and have a child. Bateman has the straight man quality in most of his comedies and his pairing with Rachael McAdams is an inspired choice. McAdams is no stranger to comedy with getting one of her first big breakout role in Mean Girls (as Regina George). She has since gone on to many great dramatic roles but it was fun having her in a silly comedy again. Jesse Plemons (whom I swear is just Matt Damon’s older brother) is also another standout as the creepy neighbor nobody wants to invite to game night.
The movie has a couple stand out moments that are really funny (some are seen in the trailer) like where Bateman’s character is shot accidentally by his wife (Game Night gets a couple of funny moments out of that setup). There are a few clever lines here and there, and the cast has great chemistry. There is another scene where Billy Magnussen’s character has to bribe someone, which is predictable but still well executed. Game Night has more than a few funny moments.
Game Night falls into many of the same traps that plagued The Hitman’s Bodyguard last year. The trap that Hitman’s Bodyguard fell into was a confusion of tone. Game Night is all over the place with the tone. One moment Game Night is goofy, the next it tries to be an action movie, then the next moment the movie tries to be super meta and self-aware, and there is just no consistency to Game Night. There are many times where the jokes don’t land, but that’s a micro view of the problems of Game Night (every comedy has jokes that don’t land). Looking at a macro view of Game Night, the movie has a big problem with tone. Towards the end of the movie, Game Night starts to get all self-aware and it left me wondering, where that was the entire movie? This isn’t to say Game Night shouldn’t be self-aware, on the contrary, I wish the movie embraced it more. Game Night could have benefited from a more heightened tone akin to classic B-level comedies like Clue. Why only commit halfway? Go full blown ridiculous!
Game Night also tries to throw in one too many twists into the plot. Had the movie been a little more self-aware (throughout the runtime), this could have worked but many of the twists feel like they are there for the sake of twists.
But a story isn’t really the main reason you go see a movie like Game Night, you go for the premise and to be entertained. Game Night has the good premise and from time to time it is entertaining. The movie is a bit of a mess and lacks a true vision from beginning to end. This movie has just enough going for it where it would be worth a rental and viewing with friends. But as a theater-going experience, Game Night misses the mark. This isn’t going to be the next comedy classic but it also isn’t as bad as other recent comedies like Sisters or Ted 2. It was an okay comedy.