After directors John Francis Daley and Jonathan Goldstein escaped from the underwhelming “Vacation” series reboot in 2015, it seemed as if their fledgling careers behind the camera may be taking a turn for the worse.
However, since directing that movie they have penned the massively successful Spider-Man reboot in “Spider-Man: Homecoming” and returned to their directorial role in “Game Night.” The film was released in late February and received mostly positive reception and made a fairly good return at the box office.
It stars “Arrested Development” and “Horrible Bosses” star Jason Bateman and “Spotlight” star Rachel McAdams as Max and Annie, a competition-obsessed couple who revel in the opportunity to win against their friends during their weekly game night.
Their friends include the dimwitted womanizer Ryan played by “Into the Woods” star Billy Magnussen, Kevin played by “New Girl” regular Lamorne Morris and his wife Michelle played by Kylie Bunbury. While none of the names past the two headliners of Bateman and McAdams may jump out at you, the ensemble cast works together perfectly to create humorous chemistry between them that is the main driver of the movie.
The film’s plot revolves around Max’s brother Brooks played by “Friday Night Lights” and “The Wolf of Wall Street” star Kyle Chandler. Brooks is a successful venture capitalist who is living the luxurious single life and has constantly overshadowed Max throughout his life.
As Brooks comes into town, it interferes with Max’s confidence and makes it more difficult for him and Annie to conceive their first child. Brooks quickly takes the weekly game night into his own hands and hires a company to act out a mystery they have to solve across the town.
When Brooks is kidnapped for real, Max, Annie and their friends think it’s part of mystery and unwittingly pursue him and the kidnappers. What ensues is the group becoming entangled in an increasingly ridiculous situation where they are forced to shoot, run and think their way out of trouble.
The word ridiculous may seem to have a negative connotation but it is actually where “Game Night” thrives. It pushes the character’s challenges to extremes that are just out there enough to be funny but not too far to be so over the top that it comes off as campy. The writer takes the humor to the ledge and perfectly balances over it to find the sweet spot of funny and ridiculous.
It also utilizes dark humor which always a dangerous decision to go with in its inherent to alienate the audience through tastelessness or going too dark. This is where it’s important to note ‘Game Night’ is rated R. This is in part due to language, that’s not to say that they depend on the shock value of cursing, but a majority of it has to do with the level of violence in the film.
While it’s nothing on the level of a war movie or “Game of Thrones”, it does feature some shootouts, fights and yes, even some deaths. None of it is done in a way that is so disturbing it loses its humor but there are examples of violence which has drawn some criticisms. It all depends on what the viewers line is in terms of funny violence but it’s done well enough that it will appeal to most people’s sense of humor.
The whole point of doing a dark comedy is to push the boundaries and the film does an excellent job of that. Overall, “Game Night” is packed with action that makes for excellent comedy largely thanks to Bateman and McAdams but the entire cast as a whole manage to stand on their own and thrive as a group. The entire thing is only 100 minutes long but it is a 100 minutes very well spent.