FILM: Game Night

 “Welcome to Katz Reviews. This is Ed Katz of Katnip Marketing- marketing consultant by day; theater and film critic by night- bringing my weekly review segment, Katz Reviews, here for you on WICC 600.

The movie ‘Game Night’ has become a sleeper hit at the box office. Expectations were not particularly high but, like the film itself, it’s performance has defied- and exceeded- those expectations.

One of MY expectations was that ‘Game Night’ would vanish from local movie theaters before anyone who heard my review would even have a chance to go see it- so I almost didn’t review it for you.

Yet, it’s still playing in wide release. And, while ‘Black Panther’ has gotten all the media attention, this little sleeper has chugged along and racked up almost $100 million in ticket sales already.

 (l to r) Jason Bateman, Kyle Chandler, Lamorne Morris; Detroit Free Press

Given how this film continues to do well it has to be attributed to, as we say in the marketing world, “good word of mouth.” Friends who see it tell their friends, and so on. And that’s the best form of marketing. Here I will tell you my thoughts and you can make your own call.

Written by Mark Perez and co-directed by actor John Francis Daley and sitcom writer Johnathan Goldstein, ‘Game Night’ is a dark-ish suburban yuppie satire- masking itself as a violent adventure comedy- that has several very funny moments. It doesn’t fit neatly in established film genres- which makes it a bit harder for me to describe to you. But the plot is this: a group of yuppie friends regularly get together for game nights and try to top each other for who can make it the most fun.

 Rachel MacAdams, Jason Bateman;

Jason Bateman and Rachel MacAdams play the lead couple, Max and Annie, and it quickly becomes apparent they resent Max’s brother Brooks, played by Kyle Chandler, who seems to have everything and is always upstaging and embarrassing Max- in every way possible.

One game night brother Brooks shows up driving the car Max has always wanted since childhood. And he has a twist- HIS version of game night will involve a kidnapping of one of the players by actors he has hired. And the first player who finds the kidnapped player will win Max’s dream car.

Of course, Brooks isn’t exactly what he seems to be and things don’t go as planned, as the fake kidnappers don’t get to the house until after real kidnappers have already done their job.

The fun, of course, is that- for a while- the players don’t know the kidnappers are real. And their lives are in danger- for real.

 Jesse Plemons & Olivia

Then the adventure ratchets up the fun- and suspense- as the friends decide to try to attempt the rescue anyway… amidst crazy (and generally fun) plot twists involving some shady characters. Several of the surprises in the plot are really clever- and there are many plot twists- but I found some frustrating moments watching it, too. Like when a character accidentally gets shot and never seems to be in any real pain- just “inconvenienced.”

Or take Rachel MacAdams’ Annie- who we see early on as being really smart, but, in order to sustain some laughs, she is made to be stupid here and there… again, just to serve the comedy in the story. And what bothered me most about this film is that there are a few of those moments- and there didn’t need to be. Because this film really is clever and has many funny moments. Even if you ignore the suburban satire aspect to it, though that adds an extra layer to this story like it’s another plot twist.

I liked ‘Game Night’ enough to give it 3-and-a-half stars out of 5 as it is a good movie. But I will add a caution flag: the road for this comedy adventure has some bumps in it.

Catch my reviews right here this time each week and on my Facebook page and website, Katz Reviews dot com, where you will find all my WICC 600 reviews. This is Ed Katz talking theater for WICC 600!”