Ah, the action comedy. A sub-genre that so rarely triumphs, often falling for the same contrived tropes, reliant on big set-pieces, car chases and shoot-outs, forgetting that comedy is so often at its best when subtle, deriving from the characters and dialogue. While John Francis Daley and Jonathan Goldstein’s Game Night follows the aforementioned formula, this succeeds where so many other films of this nature suffer: it’s funny.
Max (Jason Bateman) and Annie (Rachel McAdams) fall in love during a pub quiz, bonding our a shared passion for competition, which they both take incredibly seriously. Coming first, most of the time, Max has always settled for second best when it comes to his rich, handsome brother Brooks (Kyle Chandler). Needless to say, Max grows anxious when his brother comes to town, and he’s particularly bemused when his weekly hosting of ‘game night’ changes venue to Brooks’ lavish abode. He can’t help but upstage his brother either, introducing an authentic murder mystery game where one member of the collective will be kidnapped and the rest must determine where they are. Though when Brooks is taken by two masked men, the group can’t figure out whether it’s real, or part of the game – perhaps having to rely on the assistance of neighbour, and cop Gary (Jesse Plemons), with their tails in between their legs, given they’d stopped inviting him to their weekly get together.
Though for the most part the jokes are predictable, and many don’t land – there are a small handful of scenes that are really funny, to a point where you’ll still be giggling as you progress into the next scene. The dialogue does feel as though it has been crafted purely for the purposes of crafting a good trailer though, with several contrived one-liners and gags that seem intended for that very purpose.
There is some creativity to be found however, with nice little additions, such as the way the landscape is portrayed from a bird’s eye view as being a toy model village, only for it come to life as the camera zooms in. What is somewhat less original, however, is the casting of Bateman. A safe bet, of that there is no doubt, but he is playing a version of the same character he plays in almost every movie he stars in. Thankfully he’s an incredibly likeable person, and many will watch him in movies simply to indulge in his affable personality – but it’s somewhat repetitive and lacks that creative spark. Still, not many can pull off that same beleaguered, deadpan look in the same way he does –which is still humorous, even if we have seen it a million times.
Though Game Night can be accused of being somewhat generic, it maintains your attention throughout, mostly thanks to the myriad of twists and turns, that, to commend screenwriter Mark Perez, you don’t see coming. What transpires is a film that while somewhat simple, is undoubtedly good fun – and as we move away from this year’s award’s season, it’s throwaway, uncynical entertainment of this very nature that we find ourselves craving.
Game Night is released on March 2nd.