Cinematic Releases: Not Your Everyday “Everyman” Film: Game Night (2018) - Reviewed

The biggest question with Game Night is not whether you’ll enjoy it or not; it’s why you’ll enjoy it. Rather, does it succeed because of its comedic, “everyman” formula, or in spite of it?

Game Night stars Rachel McAdams, Kyle Chandler, Jesse Plemons, and Jason Bateman. Bateman, (Arrested Development, Horrible Bosses, and more) has become almost typecast as the comedic “everyman”, you know, the straight white guy with most of the accoutrements of a good, “normal” life. In Game Night, his role is no different, as he plays another character who takes for granted all of the assets of his “ordinary” life, only for want of something more exotic, but ultimately, less virtuous. He covets the life of his older brother, the better-looking, “more successful” progeny of his parents.

His foray into his brother’s version of game night, a weekly ritual for Max (Jason Bateman) and his friends gives him some access into the life he wants. His quest into the unknown, as typical in these movies, simultaneously gives him the titillation he so desperately craves while also the perspective that he already has a great life. As Game Night takes us through the twists and turns of a murder mystery party gone wrong, the couples who participate in the night go through some satisfying, although seen-before transformations. The result of this sort of formula, as seen in movies like The Hangover, Hall Pass, and Couples Retreat is supposed to connect the viewer to the “everyman”, give the viewer the same titillation that the “everyman” craves, and ultimately the feeling that the “ordinary” life that the “everyman” and also the viewer live is pretty good after all. How does this sort of opiate for contentment thrive despite its predictability?

Game Night thrives because there is a lot more going on than a standard mid-life crisis movie. For a comedy, the acting is solid. Everyone’s timing makes sense, and there’s a good balance of screen time between the different actors. Jesse Plemons steals the show as a cop, a neighbor, and a divorcee. His performance in Game Night, along with the USS Callister episode on Black Mirror solidify his standing as “the king of creep”. Game Night also has a great score. Cliff Martinez’s riffing synthesizers keep the pace of the movie upbeat and dynamic.

While Game Night is original enough to keep you entertained, it doesn’t score because of its genre, the “everyman” comedy. The movie presents an environment too familiar to be engulfing enough for it to be considered a masterpiece or high entertainment. It does, however, hit the familiar beats with aplomb. 

Share this review.

-Blake Pynnonen