Film review by Jason Day of Game Night, the comedy about suburbanites in trouble, starring Jason Bateman and Rachel McAdams.
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A group of suburban couples regularly challenge themselves to games at the house of ultra-competitive Max (Jason Bateman) and Annie (Rachel McAdams). When Max’s smooth, successful brother Brooks (Kyle Chandler) turns up, he hosts his own game night at his swanky new pad. Upping the ante, he says one of them will be ‘kidnapped’ and the ‘game’ will be to locate them. When a group of kidnappers break in on events and take Brooks, the team set about finding him…but is this for real or not?
Review, by Jason Day
A comical update of The Game for the gross-out comedy generation…tinged with social commentary.
What would you do if armed raiders stormed into a party you were at, beat up the host and then bundled him into a van parked outside?
a) Panic and run away
b) Try to help, or phone the police
c) Tuck into the champagne and cheese he just served.
If the answer is c and, for me, it most certainly would be (for I would never waste Camembert or fizz), then you are the demographic group this fun, completely barmy comedy is squarely targeted at.
And funny a comedy it is too. Quite funny. Throughout the movie most of the jokes, prat-falls and comically gory set pieces hit home.
They take a while to gather speed. After briskly setting up the basic exposition, the film dawdles through a further 20 minutes of back history about some shockingly vapid characters.
This is plainly the point, to satirise the interests and outlook of these vain, glib people, but the problem with Game Night is the lack of a decent person to identify with.
The only nice characters is the cop next door (played by Jesse Plemons), terminally dull if not comatose. But his West Highland Terrier is cute and well groomed.
OK, I’m getting picky about a film I liked, so let’s move along. When the film gets going, the laugh ratio is consistent and crackingly good and helps you forget the people involved.
This is a comical update of David Fincher’s stylish The Game (1997) made for the gross-out comedy crowd but tinged with a hint of social commentary about Millennial angst. Now nearing 40 they are ruthlessly trying to avoid commitment or responsibility…but obliterating their pals at Monopoly helps see them through.
It’s not just your average ‘burbanite who is struggling with the ‘demands’ of singleton in Game Night. Our first ‘boilk’ line comes from a doctor (Camille Chen) who, commenting on Max’s infertility, claims: “I’m not loving your sperm” (he has ‘motility’ issues).
This blunt, off the cuff approach is continued throughout the movie and illustrates how this milieu of people are self interested, but also selfless, at the same time.
The doctor cares about Max and Annie having a baby, but gets to the point…about that and wanting to hook up with Max’s brother.
When they find that errant brother, Max and Annie pose for a selfie first. In time, this scene will place this movie in the 2015-2018 era, as it will with many others, the same way mobile phone models does now.
When Max is shot and they want to avoid police attention, Annie uses a good Chardonnay bought from a convenience store instead of an alcohol rub to clean the wound (and picks up a magazine that has a tasty recipe in it whilst she is there).
When Brooks is kidnapped, the violence erupts around the party but the guests pick at the cheese and nibbles as previously described.
Still, our intrepid non-heroes put their lives on the line to save Brooks. The comedy that flows comes from their self-absorbed reasons for needing to do this – to prove themselves to lovers, to escape being bored for the night and in beautiful Billy Magnussen’s case, because they don’t actually realise what is going on.
For Magnussen’s magnificently wide-eyed, enthusiastic always non-plussed Ryan, the lights are on but the property has long since been ear-marked for demolition. With merciless skill, his ‘date’ Sarah (Sharon Horgan, from TV’s Catastrophe) skewers his cat-walk village idiocy.
The film is staged like a game throughout (the shots of the locations look like a computer game, the chase through villain Danny Huston’s house resembles a Pac-Man style level game, replete with Street Fighter villains) and the music cleverly apes that of Tron: Legacy.
I loved this film, I laughed, I winced, I grimaced, exactly what I expected and what I got.
Cast & credits
Directors: John Francis Daley, Jonathan Goldstein. 1hr 40mins. Aggregate Films/Davis Entertainment/New Line Cinema. (15)
Producers: Jason Bateman, John Davis, John Fox, James Garavente.
Writer: Mark Perez.
Camera: Barry Peterson.
Music: Cliff Martinez.
Sets: Michael Corenblith.
Jason Bateman, Rachel McAdams, Kyle Chandler, Sharon Horgan, Billy Magnussen, Lamorne Morris, Kylie Bunbury, Jesse Plemons, Michael C. Hall, Danny Huston, Chelsea Peretti, Camille Chen.