It’s just so much fun when an ensemble comedy fires properly on all cylinders, not only delivering in laughs, but also charm and intrigue. Game Night does just that, with a cast that shares such great chemistry that you believe they’re a group of friends who get together on almost a weekly basis for a game night filled with board games, charades and friendly – but real – competition.
Now, while a game night consisting of just the above could possibly be entertaining given the proper story, luckily, writer Mark Perez ups the ante setting up our heroes (I admit I’m using that term somewhat loosely) for a game night that they’ll never forget. The group consists of the following couples: Max & Annie (Jason Bateman & Rachel McAdams), Kevin & Michelle (Lamorne Morris & Kylie Bunbury) and Ryan & Sarah (Billy Magnussen & Sharon Horgan.) Okay, Ryan and Sarah are on their first date, so technically not a couple, but that’s not really vital information here.
Things take a turn from the ordinary when Max’s incredibly successful brother, Brooks (Kyle Chandler) shows up for the latest game night. You see, he and Max had an incredibly competitive history growing up, and with Brooks’s current successes, Max can’t help but feel somewhat inferior – and just to get into his younger brother’s head, Brooks shows up to game night in Max’s dream car: a 1976 Corvette Stingray.
After telling some embarrassing stories to throw Max off his game, Brooks goes on to defeat Max on this night, much to Max’s chagrin. But this is only the beginning, as Brooks invites everyone to a game night the following week at a place he’s renting out on the fancy side of town. They all agree, but don’t realize that the game that they’ll be participating in while there may have a big reward, but it’ll also have much bigger stakes than anyone could have imagined.
What works so well with Game Night is, well, everything, really. That’s not to say it’s flawless, because it’s not. There are certain aspects of it that are overly silly – like the character Ryan, for instance. While played really well by Magnussen, when we’re first introduced to Ryan, he’s bringing a new, young 20-something to game night every week, with no real care about winning or losing, which baffles his friends. These young ladies are more preoccupied with their Instagram and taking selfies over participating in the game, so It comes off like Ryan simply feels like he’s winning because he gets to date these younger women. However, when he brings the more mature, and much smarter Sarah to the game night mentioned above, we learn he’s pretty much as dense as they come, so it’s unclear why everyone was so shocked that he’d be attracted to women on his same intellectual level previously.
But that’s not really something that takes away from the movie, it’s just something that sort of could’ve been handled a bit better when fleshing out his character in the first act. But it’s a small complaint to show how minor some of the issues one may have with the movie are, as Perez has really written a strong, interesting script with smart, fun and fast dialogue. The small hiccup of Ryan aside, this group of characters feel real enough. Max and Annie fell in love over their shared competitive spirits and are now looking to possibly have children, Kevin and Michelle have been together since middle-school and yet a secret is revealed that causes a bit of friction there, and Ryan and Sarah are trying to figure out if they’re even on an actual date.
Meanwhile, all three couples are trying to avoid Max and Annie’s neighbour Gary (Jesse Pleamons), who used to attend their game nights with his now ex-wife. Since their divorce, he’s no longer invited, as he was viewed more as the creepy husband that tagged along over a friend to the actual group.
So when things take a turn during the big game night at Brooks’s place, each couple must deal with their own issues, while trying to solve the mystery that’s been laid before them by Brooks on this fateful night. And it’s how the story is handled from here that makes the movie work so well. While it’s somewhat set in reality, it’s also not at the same time. There are plenty of over-the-top scenarios, and extraordinary situations that take place throughout that just constantly up the ante for those involved and it’s the silly mixed with the extreme that actually balances things out nicely.
The comedy directing duo of John Francis Daley and Jonathan Goldstein bring a really fun style to the film, with interesting camera shots, and complete control over the comedy and how it’s presented. Most importantly may be their wonderful pacing of the film, which moves fluidly from scene to scene, and feels natural when doing so, no matter if they’re leaving a crazy scenario and enterting a somewhat tamer one, or vice-versa.
Above all that is the chemistry though. Without chemistry in a film like this, everything just crumbles, and all these actors really bring their A-game to the table and continuously pass GO while collecting $200 without ever looking back. I’m not sure if that makes sense, but I’m just saying that everyone in this movie does a great job, while clearly having fun, which is infectious to the viewer and just makes you want to see what will come next.
So if you’re looking for a really fun way to spend an evening, and your friends aren’t available for a game night of your own, then checking this movie out is the way to go. I mean, even if your friends are available for a game night this movie may be the way to go, as there’s a much lesser chance of any game boards being flipped 60-minutes in, with someone accusing you of being a crooked banker and padding your own wallet with fifties, while vowing that next time your little thimble won’t see what’s coming if it lands directly in jail.
In short, Game Night is a winner and shouldn’t be missed if you’re looking for some laughs.
The movie really looks great, with great clarity, sharp imagery, and just a wonderful overall transition to Blu-ray. There’s never any distracting muddy scenes in a movie that takes place largely outside at night, or in darker, seedier places. The sound mix, dialogue and score/soundtrack are also handled beautifully, never taking you out of the moment to wonder what was said.
Unfortunately, the disc is somewhat light on the special features, with only two small featurettes.
An Unforgettable Evening: Making Game Night – This featurette is just over three minutes, and has more of a promotional feel to it, with the actors being interviewed briefly paired up as the couples in the film. It’s fun, and the chemistry is clear to see with how they act during these interviews, so much so that I was hoping this was longer. Alas, it isn’t, but it’s still a fun – very, very quick, watch.
Gag Reel – This one is under seven minutes in length, and just sees various errors and comedic moments happening on set. It’s fun, and worth a watch.
As a whole, it would’ve been nice to have had a commentary, or at least a longer, maybe 10-12 minute behind-the-scenes feature, but it is what it is.
Warner Bros. Home Entertainment Presents Game Night. Directed by: John Francis Daley, Jonathan Goldstein. Written by: Mark Perez. Starring: Jason Bateman, Rachel McAdams, Kyle Chandler, Sharon Horgan, Billy Magnussen, Lamorne Morris, Kylie Bunbury, Jesse Plemons. Running time: 100 Minutes. Rating: 14A. Released on Blu-ray: May 22, 2018.
Tags: Billy Magnussen, Game Night, Jason Bateman, Jesse Plemons, John Francis Daley, Jonathan Goldstein, Kyle Chandler, Kylie Bunbury, Lamorne Morris, Rachel McAdams, Sharon Horgan