It's rated R, but I don't remember if it got really offensive or if it just always threatened to get really offensive. I'm pretty sure that there is some language and there's some sex talk. On the grand scheme of raunchy comedies, this one is pretty tame. Like, if you had to make The Man Who Knew Too Little barely R-rated, this would be it. There's some blood and some violence. That's the big stuff. But this is America. We love blood and violence in our comedies. R.
DIRECTOR: Mark Perez
I want to go on a date with my wife. We used to go to movies, but now we have a little baby. This is a blessing, but I want my wife to be excited for these movies. (She now reads these, so this is all very self-aware.) I don't think that Happy Anniversary did the job exactly, so I thought something more light-hearted might make a better choice. Game Night is extraordinarily light hearted, considering that there's blood and murder in it. But it isn't a romantic comedy. I need to stop being such a snob guys. This is all on me. Do you understand that I want to find a way to make my wife watch Her under the disguise that it's romantic? I'm a bad person.
I love that Jason Bateman has a career in comedy again. I know that he's in a little hot water after the Arrested Development press tour, but the man has a way with comic timing. I know that a lot of people didn't know what movie we were talking about when we recommended this one. If you are thinking, "Hey! Jason Bateman wasn't in Game Night. Steve Carrell was." Well, then you are thinking about Date Night, a similarly named movie with a superficially similar plot as Game Night. But I rented this because I knew that the ol' ball-and-chain (remember, I know she's reading this) likes Bateman and so do I. I also got this because Lamorne Morris is in this movie. Lamorne Morris kind of needs to have a super-career at this point. If you haven't watched New Girl, you have missed out on one of the most talented comic actors in Hollywood. So on a completely superficial level, we rented this for Jason Bateman and Lamorne Morris. I can tell you what happens when I go in with this attitude. Whenever I watch a movie because it has some of my favorite television comedians in it, the movie ends up being far worse than what they produce on television. While I think that Bateman and Morris have made better, the movie actually kind of holds up with them. Actually, this movie became a "Holy crap! [That guy] is in it too." In this case, my wife just shotgunned all of the television version of Friday Night Lights and not one, but two actors from Friday Night Lights are in this show. And they all did their job well in a pretty solid movie. The reason I can't praise this to the heavens, though, is that it all seemed fairly parroting a lot of other movies. I've already claimed Date Night and The Man Who Knew Too Little, but there were elements of The Game in there as well. Thank God that the movie wasn't self-aware or it would have been titled exactly like one of the Scary Movie parody pieces of garbage. No, the movie stole a whole bunch, but never winked at the camera once. I think this was a good call. Again, there are only so many movie plots out there, but this one is a bit more shameless than the other ones.
The shamelessness really highlights the fact that this movie was trying to make a quick buck. It's fun and that's the point. But there's a bunch of stuff that really highlights that this isn't anyone's passion project. The advertisement is off the chain in this movie. I swear, having Bateman talking about Tostitos Scoops (not just tortilla chips) while the logo was peeking out of his grocery bag is pretty shameless. There are a lot of these moments. When the movie is a major endeavor that seems to involve a modicum of personal feelings, like CastAway or Superman: The Movie (I know these aren't great examples, but they do seem bigger than simply popcorn movies at times), I think I get more upset. With Game Night, all it really deserves is an eyeroll. I think the only disappointing thing is that Game Night is actually a pretty good movie. There were lots of times that I laughed aloud. I wanted to see it succeed and, as a good audience member, I kind of got what I wanted. The action in the movie, while ridiculous and done more for comedic effect, is pretty solid. But there's one thing that really stands Game Night out from the rest of the silly forgetable comedies that are constantly coming out. This is a weird thing to say, but it is the weird use of the camera and the weird stylization of the establishing shots. Let's talk about the camera. The camera in the action sequences is actually kind of intense. There are these really quick (almost Michael Bay quick!) driving shots where the camera is following the vehicle from the rear. For some reason, these shots are actually insanely tight tracking shots. My theory is that the cinematographer or director want to mimic Grand Theft Auto. While there is a board game motif throughout the story, the movie doesn't exactly hide away from video games being part of game nights. Similarly, and I don't know how effective this choice is, but the use of the establishing shot as part of a game thing. Do you know in old timey movies where there's an establishing shot that is clearly a model. This is when the production couldn't afford to shoot anything on location, so a model was brought in and it is clearly a bunch of toys that we have to lie to ourselves about. Well, Game Night did the same thing, but for stuff that would be very easy to film. Then the establishing shot slowly tracks into the reality of the scene. Like, that shot is way more complex than it needs to be. Heck, that shot probably cost way more money than simply doing either process. There had to be computers to transition between the two images. My guess is that the model piece might look like game pieces, maintaining the game motif. I don't know if it necessarily sells that. I think it looks really cool and I love that it wasn't a boring choice. But I don't know if it screams game. At best, "toy".
This is one of those movies that really rides hard on the character dynamics. The jokes are all okay, but there is nothing that is pee-your-pants hilarious. Rather, we like these characters right off the bat. I'm sure that if I put the leg work into these reviews, I could probably link each personality type with a million other movies to show that there is a certain combination to make a friends dynamic work. But I'm not going to do that. Instead, I'm going to say that there is a reason why that friends dynamic works. Part of it comes from the fact that I'm married and I really like the friends' groups that are composed primarily of married couples. The idea of the will-they / won't-they is removed from the equation. That's probably going to make it hard to find a rom-com that appeals to me. But I like the fact that a lot of the running gags kinda sorta mirror conversations I have with my friends. I think my favorite bit, and I loved this bit, was Kevin and Michelle's back and forth running gag about celebrities. It was pretty great. I also have to give a big ol' shout-out to Jesse Plemons who just played his part with absolute grace. It has to be weird to be the weird guy in every movie now. I don't think it was Friday Night Lights that got him to this place in his career, but rather Breaking Bad. But as long as Jesse Plemons doesn't mind playing that part, I would love to see more roles like this for him. He's just so weird and a lot of that comes from the fact that he looks like a big ol' weirdo. There is a point in the comedy where you know that entire set pieces are created just to keep the movie going. There's a loose attempt to get logic on board this story, but it is very thin. These scenes are just meant to keep the audience hooked. There's the scene in this movie, like many of these movies, where the entire plot is explained and it is in this moment that all reality is thrown out. The fact that someone could have claimed to orchestrated a lot of this is beyond absurd. But the movie is supposed to be beyond absurd, so I should just shut up right now.
The long and still longer? The movie is a fun time. It has moments where it aspires to break convention and be better than what it presents, but then also has moments that really sabotage that effort. It's got a great cast in a movie that appears to be pretty fun to make. I'd love to see Lamorne Morris making more movies, so that's always a good time. If you want a good time without much thought, Game Night really hits the spot in the way it is supposed to. (Also, I feel ashamed that I didn't make a game pun with "scoring a point" or something at the end.) Finally, enjoy delicious Tostitos Scoops for whatever party you might be hosting. Or maybe you are just hungry while reading quickly written blogs. Regardless, Tostitos Scoops: Scoop it up!
Film is great. It can challenge us. It can entertain us. It can puzzle us. It can awaken us.
Mr. H has watched an upsetting amount of movies. They bring him a level of joy that few things have achieved.