In the landscape of modern-day filmmaking, comedies have become a "hit or miss" kind of genre that can either resonate in some large ways or sink to the bottom of the proverbial ocean of resonance to never be seen again. I hope that “Game Night” is a film that finds itself with more money than it knows what to do with because “Game Night” is an exceptionally fun time to be had at the theatre.
The story is quite simple, a competitive married couple, Max (Jason Bateman) and Annie (Rachel Mcadams), loves to have game night with a group of friends quite often. Struggling to get pregnant, the competitive couple is attempting to discover the psychological blockade that is keeping the husband’s sperm, Max (Jason Bateman), from reaching its desired destination. Believing the cause to be a sibling rivalry, they are invited to a special game night at Max’s (Jason Bateman) brother’s house, but what seems to be an intensified form of game night ends up being incredibly dangerous for the married couple and all of their friends who find themselves apart of this impromptu journey.
There is a lot of fun to be had in this comedy-driven journey. The most shocking praise I can give that seems like a solid starting position for this review is that of the technical filmmaking. The directors themselves are incredibly inventive in this film. The use of the premise to create some fantastic visuals is remarkable as they use wide shots in a way that resembles something similar to a game board. It’s like an old-school practically built set that you would see in a film like Fritz Lang’s “Metropolis,” but the tools of modern-day filmmaking allow for these wide shots to serve as a creative outlet for the premise and a cleverly stunning way to transition the scenery.
There is also a sensationally thrilling tracking shot in the middle of this film that revolves around a chase scene. The goofy comedic characters have no stunts, but the thugs who are chasing them do, and it allows for a sequence that takes me out of the movie in a good way. Instead of being taken out because of a dumb moment, it's quite the opposite because there is so much technical ingenuity to be found that makes me excited to see these directors do something like that of an action film or a thriller of some sorts. They’ve had their highs and lows in the past, but these two men have done an incredible job in utilizing their premise in a creatively magnificent fashion. In a way that doesn’t detract from the movie either, but instead, the filmmaking reminds me of how rarely we get to see this level of technical brilliance in a comedy in today’s day and age.
Mark Perez is behind the screenwriting of the film, and though there is a lot to praise here with that of his use of mature storytelling that blends with that of the comedy, he does allow his script to fall into the treacherous hands of generality at times. The premise can overstay its welcome by continually being used like that of an excuse for continuing the film, and the second act of the film begins the trivial set-ups that we all expected to see.
The use of the characters though can outweigh those flaws because each partnership of characters is given a subplot that has an arch of importance. Each arc is unique, and most importantly they are enjoyable to watch. They never lessen the humor or the story. The set-ups are apparent, but the pay off is charming enough to become the forgiving olive branch for the lack of cleverness.
There is also a subplot assigned to a minor character in that of the creepy cop neighbor who feels like a cross-match between the eerie Norman Bates (Anthony Perkins) and the darkly comedic tone of Jimmy Blevins (Ike Barinholtz). He is that one guy whose dark undertones stand out in a comedic fashion to everyone else's lack of bleaknesses, but he never becomes too dark. If you know what I am talking about, great, if not, you’ll probably get it more when you see the film and learn more about creepy Gary (Jesse Plemons).
The performances are excellent all around with Lamorne Morris being remarkably humorous and has a damn good Denzel Washington impersonation. Billy Magnussen is the dumb blonde of the movie, and he is surprisingly good once again. He had an excellent performance in last year’s sleeper hit of “Ingrid Goes West,” and he showcases his comedic chops in this film in a great way. Bateman and McAdams are great together and are placed in roles that we’ve seen them stride and soar in before, but don’t let that take away from their undervalued brilliance in “Game Night.”
All of these performances are great and are well-written which when compiled with that of some great filmmaking you can formulate a hilariously, well-made, and hopefully successful comedy. A rare feat in today’s proverbial countryside of filmmaking. I can’t say that I ever bursted out with laughter while watching this movie though, but many moments brought out a chuckle. And most importantly the smile that came upon my face from the first scene was never washed off by anything that would remotely be considered dumb humor, which is more than I can say for most comedies of today. Comedy is one of the most subjective genres of filmmaking in which one film can be hated by many, but also gain a massive following at the same time. We can’t help what makes us laugh, but I feel there is a lot of good things to be found in “Game Night.” It may not be the burst out laughing comedy it wants to be, but I can’t say that the ride provided wasn’t fun as hell.