Game Night - 2018
Director(s): John Francis Daley and Jonathan Goldstein
Writer(s): Mark Perez
Cinematography by: Barry Peterson
Editor(s): David Egan, Jamie Gross and Gregory Plotkin
Cast: Rachel McAdams, Jason Bateman, Jesse Plemons, Kyle Chandler, Billy Magnussen, Lamorne Morris, Sharon Horgan and Kylie Bunbury
Synopsis: A group of friends who meet regularly for game nights find themselves trying to solve a murder mystery (IMDB).
This movie shouldn’t be good, right? Let’s look at the pieces that make up this movie. The directors’ previous movie was the 2015’s subpar remake/reboot Vacation that wasn’t well received both by either audiences and critics. The writer is the man behind 2005’s Herbie Fully Loaded and 2002’s The Country Bears. If we look at the stars of the movie’s last entries in the comedy genre it doesn’t look that good either. Bateman’s last comedy was 2016’s Office Christmas Party and McAdam’s was 2015’s Aloha. Ok, by this point you understand where I’m going with this train of thought - this movie was surprisingly good. Let’s talk about it.
Quick note: the trailer also doesn’t do this movie justice at all. My wife thought she was just going to sleep while I watched it for my review and we both ended up having a blast.
The screenplay Mark Perez wrote was clever, slightly original and funny. The plot is creative as the brother of Bateman, played by the underrated Kyle Chandler, sets up an elaborate murder mystery with real actors, and its interrupted by a real kidnapping that the group thinks is fake. This leads to characters finding themselves doing and acting in ways they would never do if they knew they were in real danger. Perez also interweaved just enough twists and turns to keep the audience engaged throughout the entire runtime. But, where he truly shined was with the characters he created for the entire cast.
Jason Bateman and Racheal McAdam play an overly competitive couple that connected through their love of game nights. They have a good chemistry and have some really funny moments together as they try to survive this crazy night. But, the stars are their supporting players. Billy Magnussen (Ingrid Goes West) plays the typical “too dumb to be real” character almost all comedies have, but he manages to pull it off thanks to his genuine facial expressions. He has great line delivery and has some of the best moments of the movie. Lamorne Morris (New Girl) is in charge of a couple of running jokes, one in where he is constantly asking his wife what celebrity did she sleep with (result of a “never have I ever” game) and another in where he reacts as to how sturdy glass tables are. Both equally funny.
But, the one that absolutely stole the movie from everyone involved was Jess Plemons (Black Mirror and Other People) as Gary, the creepy next-door neighbor they don’t want to invite to the game nights anymore. He has a monotone, almost menacing, line delivery even if he is just talking about Tostitos Scoops. Along with his tone, he gave his character a deadeye look of a serial killer and it is just flat out hilarious to see the other characters try to escape the awkward exchanges they find themselves trapped in. All of this is contrasted by his adorable dog, Sebastian, that he is always holding like a Bond villain from the 70s. Plemons is one of the actors working today that excites me to see where his career will take him.
One of the things that I truly loved about this movie was the effort Daley and Goldstein put in the camera movements and the blocking of the shots. The problem with many of the comedies Hollywood has produced over the past decade is how lazily they are shot. They set up multiple cameras in a flat boring shot and they let the actors just riff in the scene hoping they can improvise a better joke than the script had written. Game Night has multiple creative shots as they played with camera placement and movement throughout the entire movie. The action sequences are dynamic and well executed. But, my favorite aspect in terms of the direction were the transition shots from scene. It helped keep the movie going at the fast pace they set from the very beginning.
Quick note: I would also like to point out the amount of effort and detail they put in creating miniature versions of their locations and cars, making it look like actual board games and board game pieces. It’s used as part of their transition shots and it was very well executed.
Game Night was truly a surprise for me as I came in with extremely low expectations. It had a great cast that melded well together and a funny script that work extremely well. It does have its clunky moments and some jokes that didn’t land, but there isn’t a single comedy that is flawless since comedy is so subjective. Charming cast, directors that tried to make a cinematic movie and a funny script equaled a truly enjoyable experience for me and my wife at the movies. Being surprised by a movie I had no expectations of, is why I love movies.
Game Night is currently playing in theaters. If you are looking for a couple of laughs and a fun time this movie is the one for you.
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