From directors John Francis Daley, best known for his role on the beloved comedy-drama Freaks and Geeks in addition to writing credits on 2011’s Horrible Bosses & last year’s Spider-Man: Homecoming, and Jonathan Goldstein, best known for his work with John Francis Daley, comes their latest effort Game Night, something which could be described on paper as a movie but barely passes as such. Jason Solomons, film critic for The Observer, once remarked that Richard Kelly’s 2006’s disaster Southland Tales was such a poor film that it made him wonder if Kelly “had ever met a human being”. It’s a phrase I can easily apply to Game Night as well.
Game Night, the story of a group of friends who find themselves embroiled in a real-life kidnapping during their weekly game night get-together seems to be intended as something of a comedy-thriller, a combination that Daley & Goldstein lazily attempt and ultimately never quite figure out how to fully execute. Principal cast member Jason Bateman does his best Jason Bateman, while Rachel McAdams as his wife Annie has clearly learned nothing from her dismal performance in Doctor Strange, again delivering a character that recently graduated with honors from the Academy Of Phoning It In. Kyle Chandler’s role as Brooks, the kidnapped brother of Max (Bateman) seems more like his own Coach Taylor from Friday Night Lights than anything else, but it’s Jesse Plemons as Gary, the offbeat, off-putting, neglected neighbor of main characters Max and Annie who brings about Game Night‘s sole ray of light-I can’t quite figure out what he’s doing with the way he speaks, but whatever it is, I love it. There are some legitimately humorous moments delivered by other random cast members as well, but these come off less as well-planned comedic gems and instead seem akin to Daley & Goldstein spinning an oversized wheel loaded with jokes to see where the needle lands. It’s all luck-never an intelligent way to make a movie.
Furthermore, I’ve never quite experienced a film with a plot as difficult to understand as this one, despite the seemingly easy-to-follow kidnapping premise-believe me, there’s far more to it than just that, especially when numerous useless, semi-unresolved side plots between supporting characters are factored in that will immediately make it a struggle to care very little, if at all. Even the editing is somehow terrible, with seemingly random, scattershot cuts between characters so as to suggest that the film we’re watching is the first draft, rather than something resembling a final product. Again, however, instances where Daley & Goldstein seem to know their craft shine through for the briefest of moments all too quickly, such as an interesting one-take scene where the cast has to outwit a house full of thugs as they attempt to steal a Fabergé egg…then again, having to mention that scene means I might have to describe the scenes that precede it, which being an exhausting task all around means I therefore no longer find it interesting
Game Night is a waste of time, a predictable film loaded with poor acting, writing, directorial garbage and easily foreseeable twists, all adding up to an overall production more to be expected from middle school film buffs as opposed to the “professionals” on display here. It’s a shame, as the film’s promising initial trailer presented an offbeat comedy that grabbed my interest completely, another example of some truly intelligent studio marketing hard at work. Unfortunately, this output from Daley & Goldstein casts a dark, ominous cloud over the production of DC’s upcoming Flash solo outing Flashpoint, as these two have been tapped to direct-never have I felt more worried about the already-troubled DCEU than I am about what they might do to skewer this beloved comic property. The only solace I have in looking back at my viewing of Game Night rests firmly in the fact that I never have to see it again.