With a very promising first trailer which boasted a fantastic cast and a genuinely funny and intriguing plot – I had my fingers crossed that this would be a comedy that would actually make me laugh and not be another waste time with predictable and repetitive non-sense similar to what we’ve been offered up over the past few years from studios. I’m happy to report that this isn’t the case at all, and what we’ve been given here is not only hilarious, unpredictable, and actually enjoyable – it’s also so stylishly shot for a film of this genre that it really does stand out from the crowd.
Max (Bateman) and Annie (McAdams) meet during a quiz night, where it’s clear they are both as competitive as each other. The pair fall head over heels for each other and are soon married. The couple host a game night every week for their friends, Ryan (Morris) and his wife Michelle (Bunbury), and Ryan (Magnussen) who brings a new girl every week. Max’s successful brother, Brooks (Chandler), turns up and quickly riles up Max and Annie as he boasts his ‘perfect’ life and shows up Max in front of his friends. Brooks offers to host game night the following week, in which he promises a night they won’t forget. When the night arrives, Brooks reveals he’s booked a company to fake kidnap a member of the party, leaving the rest of them to hunt down their kidnapped friend through a series of clues – However, things don’t go to plan and Brooks is kidnapped by thugs as his brother and his friends sit and watch. It doesn’t take them long to realise that something isn’t quite right, and then the hunt begins!
The assembled cast are fantastic choices for their characters, each providing a different style of humour but all successfully drawing laughs from the audience. Bateman is no stranger to the kind of character Max is, but he plays him to his strengths and with McAdams at his side (but by no means a sidekick), the pair are hilarious and have such electric chemistry. McAdams is a delight to watch as always, playing off her on-screen husband’s remarks and delivering some of the funniest lines of the film. Lamorne Morris and Kylie Bunbry play happily married couple, Ryan and Michelle, who were high school sweethearts. The pair are great together on-screen, but they really deliver the laughs when Ryan accidentally discovers during a drinking game that Michelle has slept with a celebrity.
Billy Magnussen plays the dim but loveable Ryan who, unlike his closest friends, is single and brings a new girl every week to game night. We see some of these girls in a very quick montage after Max and Annie make a comment about how they’re all basically the same girl – self-obsessed model wannabes with very short attention spans. Determined to win a game night, Ryan invites his British (and therefore he presumes clever) co-worker Sarah (Horgan) to Brooks’ night. It was quite refreshing for a non-couple duo to have some screen-time, as their behavior, attitude, and motive to win the game differ from Ryan’s shacked-up friends.
Jesse Plemons is an absolute scene-stealer as Max and Annie’s neighbour, Gary the Police Officer, who they actively try to avoid so they don’t have to invite him to their game nights. That’s all I’ll say about Gary as it’s best to witness his character for yourself. Chelsea Peretti makes an almost unrecognisable brief appearance and is only in it the film for one short scene, which is a real shame because Peretti is such a wonderful comedian and actress and would have really made a great addition to the circle of friends. If I could change one thing about this film, it would be to have given her a bigger role!
As the couples head out investigating the ‘fake’ kidnapping in their pairs, we as the audience are kept in the loop with what’s really going on as each pair discovers that the situation they have found themselves in is very real, and the stakes at play are also very real. Even though we’re in the loop, there’s still some twists and turns in the plot that I did NOT see coming – and I loved them.
I can’t write a review for this film and not mention the absolutely brilliant cinematography by Barry Peterson and the camera work at play. For a comedy, it’s not usual for the standout feature I take away from it being the camera work. I knew we were in for a treat as soon as the film started and the studio logos began to fall down the screen looking like game pieces, alongside lots of other game pieces from well-known board games (including Monopoly, Trivial Pursuit, and Battleship pieces) slowly falling down. One shot that has stuck in my mind since I saw it is an aerial view of the cul-de-sac Max and Annie live on, which made it look like we were looking down on a game board – anything off the street was out of focus and the houses on the street genuinely looked like small pieces on a board until the camera slowly swoops down to street level.
There’s also a fantastic one-shot that takes place in a mansion, with the 6 friends frantically trying to escape being caught by security whilst attempting to keep an artefact in one piece. The friends hurling this artefact round the mansion to one another like a rugby ball and I found myself not wanting to blink in case I missed something! The camera work during some of the scenes involving driving were also really well shot, with one angle in particular feeling like something from a racing game like ‘Forza’ and even a similar feel to cruising around on ‘Grand Theft Auto’ with the camera fixed on the car from the back. The crew really went the extra mile for this film and it really does help this comedy stand-out from the often bland and uninspiring films in the genre.
‘Game Night’ not only delivered the laughs, but it also does it with such style and flair that I really wasn’t expecting from a comedy such as this. The cast are all on form, the plot keeps the audiences interest as well as throwing in a few twists and turns to keep us on our toes. A comedy as good as this is best seen with a big audience to laugh along with, so I highly recommend a trip to the cinema when it’s released!
John Francis Daley and Jonathan Goldstein are reportedly Warner Bros’ choice to direct the upcoming ‘Flashpoint’ film, and if that is the case you can count me in. The film featured a lot of elements that a Flash solo film requires, and despite my earlier reservations about them working on it, I think they could actually do justice to my all-time favourite comic book hero.
Directed by: John Francis Daley, Jonathan Goldstein
Cast: Jason Bateman, Rachel McAdams, Kyle Chandler, Sharon Horgan, Billy Magnussen, Lamorne Morris, Kylie Bunbury, Jesse Plemons