Title: Game Night
Release Date: February 23, 2018
Studio: New Line Cinema
Release Format: Theatrical
After the recent successes of rated R comedy flicks like Horrible Bosses, Game Night featuring Jason Bateman and Rachel McAdams attempt to replicate this raunchier formula with an added twist. In addition to featuring comedy intended for adults, directors John Francis Daley and Jonathan M. Goldstein make a bold choice to turn the movie into a mystery thriller.
Game Night begins with Max and Annie coming home from their fertility appointment with all the appropriate necessities for their weekly game night, narrowly dodging their strange and discomforting neighbor, Gary, a police officer and ex-husband of a mutual friend who used to participate with them. The rest of their friends– Michelle, Kevin, and Ryan (along with his girlfriend of the week)– arrive, before Max’s brother, the ever popular and successful Brooks, comes tearing down the street in a 1976 Corvette Stingray to join in the festivities.
After soaking in the attention and beating Max in each game they play, Brooks invites them all to his rented home in town for next week’s game night, assuring them that the stakes will be higher. When they arrive, Brooks informs them that this week’s game will be a kidnapping mystery set up by a company where the winners will take home Brooks’ swanky ride. A “man from the FBI” shows up and informs them of the rules before two others enter the home, knock the man out, and immediately try to kidnap Brooks. The only twist is that these men aren’t a part of the game, a Brooks isn’t the person he’s been saying he is.
After following a few clues, or in Max and Annie’s case tracking his phone, each group quickly learns that this is no longer a game and that Brooks life is actually on the line. From here, the group sets off to rescue Brooks no matter the cost, even if it means tending to bullet wounds, breaking into a criminal’s home to steal from him, and even trading away valuable government information in order to retrieve him.
At first glance, this movie seems to be like every other recent comedy, full of laughs but no real substance. Cleverly though, Daley and Goldstein have turned Game Night into a spoof of mystery movies going back decades, showing how the circumstances that linger around the crimes that take place are far messier, bloodier, and less planned when the group you have involved isn’t trained private investigators but normal everyday idiots.
The first time this mixture of murder mystery and comedy truly shows its brilliant colors is when Annie accidentally shoots Max in the arm after unknowingly holding the two kidnappers at gunpoint. This scene is the first glance the audience gets at the reality of unprepared people handling serious situations, as Annie and Max attempt to clean and tend to a gunshot wound in an alley outside of a convenient store, poorly of course.
The directors do an amazing job of intentionally making you feel uncomfortable with certain characters, like Gary the police officer, in order to foreshadow their role in the film later. The differences between the cinematic scenes is actually profoundly done. While the gunshot tending scene is slow in order to truly milk the uncomfortable comedy that is two normal people learning how to remove a bullet from a racist militia site found on Google, the scene of the group passing around a priceless egg like a football from floor to floor in a mansion is fast paced and all shot in one apparent take.
Minor Spoilers Ahead
The full effect of the spoof is felt near the end of the film, after Gary reveals his long thought out and slightly creepy way of rejoining game night. When “The Bulgarian” shows and take Brooks and the FBI watchlist away, Max and Annie heroically drive their newly acquired Stingray to chase down the Bulgarian’s plane in full heroic fashion. They use their skills acquired through endless hours of charades to communicate with one another, and use their communication and teamwork skills from marriage to defeat the Bulgarian and rescue Brooks.
If this sounds ridiculous, it’s because it feels designed to be completely insane and hilarious as it’s happening. The juxtaposition created by the two directors in Game Night between the brutal and serious nature of mystery films with the raunchy and crude nature of a mature comedy actually does an excellent job of making it not just another standard flyover comedy flick but an interesting and compelling story.
Verdict (Spoiler Free): Game Night is a really creative and compelling take on a traditionally stale comedic style. Rather than relying simply on nudity or gruesome scenes, it chooses to blend genres and gain the best of both comedy and a mystery spoof. While you may not go back to see it a number of times, it is definitely a film that will stick in your memory longer than most comedies.
- Genre blending leads to a memorable story
- Differences in cinematic scenes
- Climax feels a little strange and rushed