Game Night (2018) (Review)

Whenever comedy appears to be taking its dying breath (something it seems to have done an awful lot lately, with a deluge of awful comedies arriving on a semi-regular basis), a film comes along to momentarily recharge and reinvigorate the wider genre. While Jason Bateman and Rachel McAdams' Game Night is far from a perfect comedy, it sure is an absolute blast of entertainment and enjoyment.

It was love at first sight for Max (Bateman) and Annie (McAdams), who first met at a quiz night and have since hosted weekly game nights for their friends to continue flexing their competitive muscles. With Max's brother Brooks (Kyle Chandler) coming to town and bringing their sibling rivalry in tow, Max and Annie hatch a plan to beat Brooks at the forthcoming game night he is scheduled to host. Alongside Bateman, McAdams and Chandler, Billy Magnussen, Sharon Horgan, Lamorne Morris, Kylie Bunbury and Jesse Plemons star in a supporting capacity, helmed by John Francis Daley and Jonathan Goldstein in the directors' chair.

Game Night is solid fun and you will almost certainly have a good time with it. While it's not pushing any boundaries, it is a crowd-pleasing effort packed with entertaining set pieces and enjoyable sequences tightly contained within a 100 minute feature. It rarely sags and despite it pushing audacious territory at times, it is consistently amusing and bursting with fine gags. Mark Perez's screenplay contains a number of wonderful film references that enhances it for us cinephiles but hardly derail it for those less invested in Hollywood. You find yourself eager to spend more time with the characters, although most of the heavy lifting is left to its leads and wider ensemble.

Both Bateman and McAdams are on absolute top form here, with two charming, sparking and effervescent performances, each as affable and sharp as the other; they are an incredibly well-matched duo and when the story isn't with them, you want the story to be back with them. Each are provided their moment to shine with neither trying to wrestle the spotlight from the other, making for a match made in comedy heaven. Let's get these two together more often, Hollywood!

While enough fun, the supporting performances don't quite carry their weight as effectively. Magnussen and Horgan's relationship is entertaining to watch unfold and while Morris and Bunbury are a talented pair (with Morris uncannily nailing a Denzel Washington impression), I found their plot strand to drag unnecessarily. Still, Game Night has no qualms about making this Bateman and McAdams' star vehicle -- although a fantastic Jesse Plemons threatens to steal it out from them on a number of times.

After their misstep with Vacation, John Francis Daley and Jonathan Goldstein do a sturdy job directing Game Night. There's some surprisingly strong cinematography from Barry Peterson and the pair manages to balance the intense and mysterious atmosphere while peppering consistent humour throughout in a stylish manner that keeps it ticking over nicely. All of this is bolstered by Clint Martinez, whose terrific, experimental soundtrack scores the emotionally-varied moments well, successfully heightening the intensity and atmosphere.

Is Game Night as funny as I wanted it to be? In short, no. It's constantly amusing and always a chuckle but disappointingly low on laugh-until-your-ribs-hurt belly-laughs. It's not particularly memorable although I'll look back fondly and be more than willing to revisit sometime down the line; it's more than serviceable and probably the strongest major studio comedy since Girls Trip of summer last year (yes, it's really been the long). Like a jigsaw, Game Night slots together nicely and while it may be a once-and-done affair, it is the sort of solid comedic entertainment that is becoming more and more absent from our big screens of late.


Summary: Game Night sure is fun and while it may not leave much of a lasting impression, Jason Bateman and Rachel McAdams make a fantastic team and together make rolling the dice on this film worth the ticket price.