by Molly Schiltz, FILM CRITIC
23 March 2018
Weekend game night friends (Kylie Bunbury, Lamorne Morris, Billy Magnussen, Sharon Horgan, Jason Bateman, and Rachel McAdams) find themselves locked in a hilarious game of life and death in Game Night. Photo courtesy of Access Entertainment.
Game nights, by nature, are evenings meant for competition. With each roll of the dice, each failed attempt at charades, and every turn of the playing card, feelings are bound to get hurt. After all, only the best and brightest are bound to survive to the next round.
However at this game night you will be safe from the ruthless happenstances of chance, although the same cannot be said for the characters of the movie. This hilarious comedy intertwines a truly funny narrative with a fast-paced plot, offering some unexpected comedic insight into the competitive tendencies of today’s society.
Max and Annie (Jason Bateman and Rachel McAdams), both sharing a passion for competition, host a game night every Friday night, joined by their friends couple Kevin and Michelle (Lamorne Morris and Kylie Bunbury), as well as their friend Ryan (Billy Magnussen), who brings in a rotating cast of new blondes every week.
But the Friday night hullabaloo is soon crashed one night by Max’s brother Brooks (Kyle Chandler), who sees no challenge in typical “Scrabble” and “Charades” game nights–so he hires kidnappers to kidnap someone in the room. The first pair of gamer partners to piece together all the clues and find the “victim” wins.
However much to the viewer’s delight the three couples don’t realize that when Brooks is kidnapped, it is real, not staged as they believe it to be. The couples then cockily and naively venture on their way to be the first to solve the mystery, not knowing the enormity of the situation and the danger they put themselves in.
Game Night is a fresh satirical movie that is actually funny–too many times nowadays we simply laugh when there is a pause in the movie that prompts us to feel the need to elicit some reaction. But Game Night is literally a laugh-out-loud comedy while still maintaining the shape of plot, with a point to all of it. And the point is this: while rambunctious friendly competition may be dangerous, a high stakes “friendly” competition may be deadly.
The actresses and actors contribute majorly to the success of the story. Their delivery of funny lines and encapsulation of hard-core gamer nerds leads viewers to support these characters on their journeys. They become characters not just to laugh at but to laugh with. Viewers become invested in their journey not just because of the character’s comedic lines or actions but also because of the emotion and touch of reality the actresses and actors add.
It is not solely the story of a game night gone wrong, but it is also the story of Max’s desire to move out of his brother’s shadow. Kevin and Michelle offer another humorous subplot of their own as Kevin tries to guess throughout the night the name of the celebrity Michelle once slept with while the two were on a break. Ryan’s foolishness is counteracted by Sarah, (Sharon Horgan), whose quick wit makes her quite different from the other girls Ryan normally brings along. Together this bumbling band of ill-prepared participants create a surprisingly capable team intent on claiming victory.
While the comedy is the real highlight of the film, there is also plenty of action. While the gamers are unaware that the kidnapper’s guns may or may not be real, the various fistfights and chase scenes certainly convince the viewer that something is afoot. The humorous parts of the movie aren’t obnoxious, shoved in the viewer’s face and played upon until they’re tired. Instead, the comedic parts are interlaced throughout the plot to the point where it can be seen as a truly funny story that delivers with a purpose.
This movie is not only a hit as an unconventional comedy, but it also shines a light on society’s competitive nature in today’s day and age. Often in today’s society it is not uncommon, but even encouraged, to be the most competitive and dedicated. This movie certainly follows that pattern, with Max and Annie only meeting through their ruthless usage of their knowledge of random bits of trivia. They team up with the intention of destroying their competitors and emerging victors. Max’s need as a middle-aged man to beat Brooks so that he can move on with his life is also reflective of a society that demands that everything be in the name of “winner” or “loser.”
Whether intentional or not, Game Night sheds light on the pressure from society to be the best. But it does not do so in a sobering way. Instead viewers are simply able to reflect upon this while they enjoy the many laughs the movie has to offer.
Game Night is rated R.
Molly Schiltz is a film critic for Oswego East High School’s online news magazine the HOWL