Review: A Surprisingly Fun Time with 'Game Night'
This review was originally published on UW Film Club, but has since been reuploaded here with the author’s permission.
In the shadow of Black Panther, Game Night has a tall task of luring audiences into its theater this weekend. After a initial trailer that left a lot to be desired, it would be easy to write this film off as another February comedy dumped in the early months of the year to clear space on Warner Bro’s shelf, but I have to admit, Game Night is one of the most pleasant surprises I’ve had in a long time. There is nothing spectacular in terms of thematic development, but come on, it’s a comedy. It’s more important that the film generates a few good laughs and this movie does them surprisingly well.
The film follows Max (Jason Bateman) and Annie (Racheal McAdams), a competitive couple who hosts weekly game nights at their home. One week Max’s brother Brooks (Kyle Chandler) suddenly comes to town and hosts a game night of his own that promises thrills and excitement via a simulated kidnapping. But things go awry when their role playing game gets mixed in with Brooks’s real kidnapping, causing the group to spend the night enduring hijinks and antics in order to get Max’s brother back.
Everyone lends their comedic talents equally, but Jesse Plemon’s character steals the show. He is hands down, bar-none the best part of this film. He plays a stoic yet creepy neighbor who wants to participate in the game nights, but is left out because of his awkwardness, lack of skill, and his recently divorced status from a close friend of Max and Annie’s. Every scene Plemons is in is hilarious, striking the right balance between a sincere human being and a total psychopath. Most of the jokes stem from his inability to move on from his divorced wife, and when combined with his eerie nature and exclusion, you get a winning formula for some sadistic humor. His role is worth the watch alone (it’s that good), plus the credit sequence adds a nice touch to his character.
The jokes in the film are actually quite good and you’ll give a hearty laugh from time to time. The narrative sometimes feels like an empty vehicle to get to the next joke, but if I have to be frank, the audience isn’t here for the story, it’s here for the comedy. There are a few instances where the scene is structured around an overall punchline (namely a scene that involve’s Gary being distracted by the group while Max tries to access his computer), but it’s mostly just one liners, pop culture references, and physical humor that is overlaid on to sequential events to move the story along (and for the most part that’s ok). The plot is straightforward and the premise works well enough to keep you engaged throughout the run time of the film, and it functions so much better than I would of ever given it credit for which is a pleasant surprise.
Game Night is not a mind blowing film, but is certainly a fun film with a solid narrative and stand out comedic performances. It manages to shake the stigmas so many bad comedies have while retaining the elements that make films within the genre so enjoyable. They say you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, and in this instance, it couldn’t be more true.