At first glance, “Game Night” may look like another formula comedy where the best parts are in the trailer, the rest of the jokes were ad-libbed, and the credit bloopers show the cast having more fun making it than anyone watching it. While the story is framed on a basic concept, what it does with this story is quite clever and enjoyable.
Adorable couple Max(Jason Bateman) and Annie (Rachel McAdams) have been hardcore gamers their entire lives. Trivia, board games, charades, nothing stands a chance against this dynamic duo. Nothing except Brooks(Kyle Chandler), Max’s overachieving older brother. Brooks is rich, charming, and can expertly emasculate Max at any given moment. After crashing one of the couple’s Game Nights, Brooks announces that he will host the next Game Night at his home, and it will be unspeakably epic. Screenwriter Mark Perez is acutely aware of the audiences expectations and his script does its best to circumvent what we think will happen next. When Brooks state “You won’t be able to tell what’s real or not”, he’s speaking to the audience as well as the other players.
Directing team John Francis Daley, Jonathan Goldstein, who have recently been attached to the upcoming DC “Flashpoint” movie, also lean away from the standard comedy cinematography. Instead of a collection of cutaway joke/reaction shots, this is filmed like a traditional narrative. There are visual jokes that play off from framing techniques, as the painfully slow, intense, zoom in on their creepy, frighteningly depressed, police neighbor Gary (Jesse Plemons). Even standard establishing shots of the neighborhood are dressed up with a photography technique called tilt-shift which makes the subjects appear to be miniatures, a perfect metaphor for the film.
Besides occasional shocking violence, this is pretty light fare. It’s a fun cast, with a fun premise, a fun cast, and fun camerawork. It won’t change your life, but it will certainly lighten it up for a few hours.