‘Blu-ray or Bust’
GAME NIGHT (2018, R, 100 minutes, AGGREGATE FILMS/WARNER BROTHERS)
Comedies of late have been a tad un-funny. The most recent and horrifying examples being needless sequels (DADDY’S HOME 2, BAD MOM’S CHRISTMAS), terrible casting choices (FATHER FIGURES), and downright stupid scripts (SUPER TROOPERS 2).
Thankfully, GAME NIGHT is here to save the genre from inane mediocrity and blatant stupidity. The film centers around a group of friends who gather once a week to play games like Scrabble and Charades. Their latest game night, however, is highjacked by the brother of one of the friends; Brooks (Kyle Chandler) hires an agency that puts on murder mystery parties to try and one-up his second-best brother Max (Jason Bateman), only the game becomes real when real goons show up and kidnap Brooks. Hilarity—literally—ensues.
The script is well-written, the jokes well-timed and executed by perfectly cast actors. Mr. Bateman is his usual, capable self, proving again that any film with him in the leading role is more than likely a safe bet. Michael C. Hall of “Dexter” fame turns in a sinister performance, and Rachel McAdams is especially good in her role as Max’s wife Annie. Jesse Plemons turns in a particularly creepy and awkward performance as neighbor/ex-game night participant Gary, and Lamorne Morris has a masterful delivery, not to mention a face and body language that accentuate every funny line he has.
But the scene stealer here is cinematographer Barry Peterson. What this man does with camera angles and action sequences is nothing short of masterful. There are several scenes which come to mind, but one in particular (it involves our heroes playing “hot potato” with a Faberge egg) is executed so seamlessly and with such fluidity that you wonder how the directors could afford such talent. His brilliant eye is the bonus character in this production; from the obvious gameboard-like setups to the wheel’s-eye view of the road, he gives a genre film a poetic and original boost that should make other cinematographers jealous. Seriously, he’s that damn good.
This film also contains what could be THE GREATEST opening and closing credits montages in recent memory. Honestly, there is more original production work here than in a normal Hollywood comedy, and clearly sets it above your typical fare. The meticulous attention and care put into the entire work shows you how seriously the producers (one of which was Bateman, under his production company Aggregate Films) and studio took this material.
One of the best things about the script is that not one single person gets the best laughs; the jokes are layered throughout each character’s storylines. From friends Kevin (Lamorne Morris) and Michelle (the gorgeous Kylie Bunbury from “Under the Dome”) arguing over which celebrity she slept with, to Sarah’s (Sharon Horgan) unfortunate pairing with doofus Ryan (Billy Magnussen), there are plenty of funny moments to go around. Mr. Bateman has always been a whip-smart comedic actor, with an eye for the hysterically mundane (if you haven’t seen his amazing directorial debut BAD WORDS, go watch it) (like, RIGHT NOW).
The opening titles alone make this a must-see in the digital format. The music and action also make the purchase on Blu-ray important, as you will not get the same fluid effects out of a regular DVD. The only unfortunate thing concerning the release is the special features; you get a making-of doc and a gag reel, and that’s it. Seems a bit lean for the increased production value of the film itself—surely the team at Aggregate have more to say about this comedy’s behind-the-scenes than this, no matter how funny the gag reel is.
Mr. Bateman’s next project is season two of “Ozark” for Netflix, another of his have-to-watch projects. Indeed, if he continues on this current streak, just go see everything he is attached to. He could be the smartest actor in Hollywood at this moment.
Film Grade: A-
Special Features: C
Blu-ray Necessary: Most definitely
-- T.S. Kummelman