James Cole Clay has been working as a film critic for the better part of a decade covering new releases, blu ray reviews and the occasional drive-in cult classic. His writing is dedicated to discovering social politics through diverse voices, primarily focusing on Women In Film and LGBTQ cinema.
James Cole Clay// Film Critic
Rated R, 100 minutes
Director: John Francis Daley, Jonathan Goldstein
Starring: Jason Bateman, Rachel McAdams, Kyle Chandler, Billy Magnussen, Sharon Horgan, Lamorne Morris, Kylie Bunbury, Jesse Plemons, Chelsea Peretti
GAME NIGHT is buy and large your typical studio ensemble comedy that will deliver on exactly what is promised by its marketing. You will get some famous faces put into exceedingly absurd situations with a little bit of dark humor and a plot that continues to escalate until its final moments. However, the real key to success with a film such as this is if the filmmakers can deliver what’s promised with a little cherry on top.
Directors John Francis Daley and Jonathan Goldstein (SPIDER-MAN: HOMECOMING screenwriters) aren’t redefining the genre, but they are aiming to entertain and subvert at any chance. This surprisingly stylish comedy elevates its material with a seedy Los Angeles atmosphere that loves to celebrate its premise at any opportunity.
Annie (Rachel McAdams) and Max are a match made in heaven and are everybody’s favorite party host. They are pros at trivia, drinking games and are the friends you’d want to have in your corner in any awkward social setting. They host regular game nights with their friends Ryan (rising comedic MVP Billy Magnussen), Sarah (Sharon Horgan), Kevin (Lamorne Morris), Michelle (Kylie Bunbury) and tagging along is Max’s brother Brooks (everyone’s dad Kyle Chandler) for a night of adult fun.
Daley and Goldstein do a quality job of letting these stars bounce off each other while propelling the film forward, which is impressive in its own right. They foster a true sense of fun and history. There’s no true scene stealer, but everybody’s talents tend to compliment each other.
There are middling B-plots thrown into the mix that don’t carry much thematic weight, such as a sibling rivalry between Max and Brooks and other masculinity issues that don’t amount to much else but padding for the run time. GAME NIGHT, ultimately, balances its thrills with its comedic force, which will be wholly satisfying for a night on the couch. Fans of either genre will get the best of both worlds without ever spilling too far in either direction.
Read Courtney Howard’s theatrical review here.
There are a lot of technical aspects to this film that would have been great to highlight on the Blu-ray disc, including an exhausting fight scene between Chandler and a couple of goons in a lavish modern home. But sadly Warner Bros. or the powers at be, skimped on this section. It’s a bit surprising because this was a modest hit at the box office. At least the Blu-ray transfer is beautiful in its own way; by channeling the likes of a Nicolas Winding Refn or Michael Mann, but obviously it doesn’t completely operate on that level.
Also, famed composer Cliff Martinez (DRIVE, CONTAGION) brings a pulsating style to the film with his score that legit elevates the film to a new level in the atmosphere he creates. But alas, there’s no special feature on this either.
What we are given is a lousy four-minute featurette on how much fun the cast had on set and a six-minute gag reel. There’s much to be desired in the form of behind the scenes information about the film, but think of that as more of a compliment to the filmmaking at work than a knock on the release itself.