In Game Night, there are no winners
My friends and I have game nights sometimes. Why? Because I like seeing my friends, and I enjoy playing games. In summary, games nights are fun.
The film Game Night is decidedly not fun. The characters do not have fun on this game night, and I did not have fun watching it. It was pretty much a lose-lose experience. Here is a list of the losers in this film.
Loser: Actual Games Nights
For a movie called Game Night, there are very few games played. There’s some brief Pictionary and bar trivia, but mostly over-the-top violence. The film really only uses the games to establish that Rachel McAdams and Jason Bateman are very competitive, and never lets the games be the good time that they should be.
These scenes also fail to say anything about the characters. When I play Catchphrase with my friends, it’s not just fun. It’s revealing. Catchphrase tells me which of my friends is the angriest, smartest, loudest, or most anxious. The stakes are high. But in Game Night, we learn very little, besides maybe that Ryan (Billy Magnussen) is an idiot.
Loser: Knowledge of Actual Games
Ok, so Bateman and McAdams are supposed to be the experts on games. But later on in the film, Bateman reminds McAdams about the time they got this high score in Pac-Man because they didn’t eat the fruit, and only went for the dots.
Um, yeah. Pac-Man 101: don’t get greedy. These are the best of the best? Plus, their trivia knowledge is severely lacking. They’re some kind of geniuses because they both know who the Purple Teletubbie is? There are only four Teletubbies. Plus, McAdams doesn’t know who Edward Norton is? Hmm.
Loser: Movie Studio Heads
Who was this movie made for? I’m really asking. I don’t know. It's a movie about wealthy suburbanites playing board games, and it has 20-year-old references to The Green Mile and Johnny Cochran. Is it for suburban adults? But it also takes shots at Trump, and takes pleasure in very graphic violence. Is it for millennials? My guess is that it will just end up being for anyone who didn't buy tickets to Black Panther in time.
There are three couples at the center of Game Night. The first is the dumb friend and his hot, older, smarter, more mature co-worker. Over the course of the night, they fall for each other. At least, I assume they do, because we get a cutaway to three months later at the end of the film, where they're still together. Throughout Game Night, he is unbelievably unintelligent, and a total asshole. But he tackles some dude into a glass table to protect her once, so that's enough, I guess?
Meanwhile, the second couple, a pair of high school sweethearts, spend the whole movie fighting about which celebrity one of them slept with once. That’s the only thing they do. Bateman and McAdams, the main couple, are pretty boring.
Loser: John Francis Daley
This one pains me the most. Look how precious little John Francis Daley is as Sam Weir on Freaks and Geeks:
And look how lovable he is as Dr. Lance Sweets on Bones:
But after Game Night and the critically panned Vacation, it might be time to admit that Daley can't direct a funny movie. At least we’ll always have this:
Loser: An Understanding of What Jokes Are
There are a lot of things in Game Night that are almost jokes, but are not really jokes. For example: Making a reference? Not inherently a joke. Violence? Not really a joke. A character being vaguely weird? Not a joke, and without any specificity, not funny, either. Sigh.
Loser: Comedies Released in Theaters
In the end, we’re the real losers here. When the only comedies that come out in theaters are duds like this, the whole genre suffers as a result. With every Game Night-like movie, we’re going to get more and more Netflix originals, and a further hollowing out of the middle class at the box office. The theater will be for superheroes, reboots, and Oscars films, if that.
That doesn’t mean you should go see this movie out of some blind devotion to comedy films, though. Stay in, and have a real games night with your friends. I promise it will be more fun than this.