Most of the time, adult comedies shoot for the funny bone with the failure to hide body parts, failure with love-making, and failure to contain bodily fluids. Luckily for audiences who have earned their R-rated cards and want their comedies to have a bit more class, there’s “Game Night”. An unpredictable and unexpectedly stylish feature from the co-writers of “Spider-Man Homecoming.”
Max and Annie are game enthusiasts: Not only did they meet at a pub quiz but even their proposal happened during a heated session of charades. They regularly host popular game nights with their friends Kevin, his wife Michelle, and Ryan. Ryan is notorious for bringing dim-witted dates to these events. However, Gary, the creepy policeman next door, never gets invited. One day, Max’s wealthy brother, Brooks, is in town and invites the whole group to a special game night with a real-life version of the board game Clue (minus the murder). The game features one individual getting abducted while the others search for the perpetrator. Suddenly, actual criminals appear and abduct Brooks, but the group still has no idea that the game has become real and they immediately start their “investigation.”
After writing both ‘Horrible Bosses’ movies and debuting as feature directors with ‘Vacation,’ John Francis Daley and Jonathan Goldstein made ‘Game Night.’ Their film has great sense for comedic timing, which is not surprising knowing Daley debuted his acting career in the cult TV-show “Freaks & Geeks,” created by Paul Feig and produced by Judd Apatow. He continues his mentors’ work, particularly Apatow’s, who has gone great lengths to establish a grown-up approach to comedy, minimizing infantilism and relying on strongly written characters.
This is also one of the main features of “Game Night.” The characters are not only likable, but also go beyond simple caricatures. Jason Bateman and Rachel McAdams, as Max and Annie, have incredible chemistry. At no point does the viewer doubt their enthusiasm. Kyle Chandler plays Brooks with just the right amount of smirk, but the scene-stealer of the movie is Jesse Plemons as Greg the neighbor. Michael C. Hall and Jeffrey Wright have little supporting roles and Billy Magnussen teams up again with Plemons after the superb “Black Mirror” episode “USS Calister.”
The screenplay, written by Mark Perez, provides more than just good characters and precise comic beats. Perez likes to add surprise after surprise playing with the audience’s expectations. He also doesn’t overdo it with the running gags. In the second half of the movie, when the gamers clash with the criminals, the story doesn’t get too crazy. There is no transition into an outrageous fight scene, but there’s still plenty to laugh about whereas other comedies turn into a full-blown action film. Even though Perez doesn’t reinvent the comedy wheel, he definitely wrote one of the top comedies of 2018.
In comedies, cinematography is rarely an outstanding feature. However, in ‘Game Night,’ the filmmakers strive for more with establishing shots filmed by drones with tilt-shift lenses. This makes the scenery look miniaturized: cars, people and houses resemble game figures on a board. Only when the camera zooms in does it become clear that we’re looking at real scenery. The creative photography definitely adds value to the movie — never becoming gimmicky.
Directors Daley and Goldstein do everything right with their new film. It is hilarious, filled with great characters and always hits the spot. Everyone who is interested in having a good time should watch this movie!
Also, stay in your seats for the credits because the filmmakers added another unmissable, and of course funny, scene.
Game Night (2018)
Directed by John Francis Daley & Jonathan Goldstein
Written by Mark Perez
With Jason Bateman, Rachel McAdams, Billy Magnussen, Sharon Horgan, Lamorne Morris, Kylie Bunbury, Jesse Plemons, Michael C. Hall, Kyle Chandler, Jeffrey Wright
Produced by John Davis, Jason Bateman, John Fox, James Garavente
Music by Cliff Martinez
Cinematography by Barry Peterson
Edited by Jamie Gross, Gregory Plotkin, David Egan
R-rated, 100 min.