Ewan Gleadow

Review: Game Night

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Comedy is subjective, let’s make that clear right from the beginning. What one person may find astoundingly hilarious; another may find disgustingly obtuse. The greatest comedy I have still ever seen is Guest House Paradiso, a movie every one of my friends loathe entirely. By all means, do they have their reasons, and it’s hard not to see where they’re coming from sometimes. But like I said, comedy is subjective. 

Subjectivity in comedy may lead some to feel that Game Night is over the top fodder, complete with an inept script and enough plot twists to put M. Night Shyamalan in his place. To others, Game Night could be considered an uproarious comedy, filled to the brim with great sight gags and references to film culture. I’m somewhere in the middle of the two crowds. 

See, on the one hand, we’ve got some great performances. Jason Bateman and Rachel McAdams star alongside one another, presenting us with a surprising level of chemistry. On-screen comedy couples are often poorly matched, but occasionally you get the rare mixture that just works so perfectly well. Bateman and McAdams is a great duo, up there with Will Ferrell and Amy Poehler in The House and Michael Caine and Steve Martin in Dirty Rotten Scoundrels. Yes, Bateman and McAdams are that good. 

But it’s the rest of the cast that truly faulters, and this may be in part due to nobody else receiving enough screen time. Not only that, but it’s not as if they’re really given anything to do. With fairly recognisable actors such as Jesse Plemons and Billy Magnussen signing on to play some rather major roles, you’d think they’d be given a little something more to do. But they flounder around in a comedic void, being forced out into the open for brief segments at a time for us to laugh at, and then shoved back into the scenery until the next time we fancy a cheap giggle. 

Much like Isn’t it Romantic?, the whole premise of Game Night is that the movie isn’t going to follow the stereotypes of the genre, and then invariably does. But it’s alright because instead of repeating the cliché the movie is repeating it, but with a hint of self-awareness. If anything, it makes it worse. The script has a smugness to it and it really correlates with some of the set pieces throughout the movie.  

While it may not sound like the strongest movie, Game Night survives on account of its truly brilliant leading stars and its consistent references to pop culture. They’re not cheesy references, some of them are actually quite good. Some of the jokes are consistent enough to be considered enjoyable too. Game Night’s problem then is it simply tries to do too much with so little time. It’s a shame because had it been contained or slightly smaller, this would’ve been an outstanding revival of the modern Hollywood comedy.