Released 5 years ago today, this properly hilarious comedy deserves a revisit
Its score of 85% on Rotten Tomatoes actually feels too low.
Comedies on the big screen are a dying breed. Thanks to the one-two punch of streaming services and the pandemic, plus the fact that comedies are often one of the cheapest genres to produce, it was and is too easy to simply sell off the finished movies to Netflix or Disney+ or Prime Video, instead of taking the risk on a cinematic release - which will effectively double the movie's budget when you add in advertising and promotion - and potentially take a loss if it doesn't vibe right with the audience.
Even some of the best Hollywood comedies that did receive a cinema release didn't do all that well: 2019's Booksmart only made $25 million worldwide, 2018's Blockers only made $94 million, 2013's This Is The End did marginally better with $126 million. It has been a long time since a comedy has been one of the biggest hits of the year; in 1994, Jim Carrey had the 6th, 9th and 17th most successful movies in a 12-month period, when he released Dumb & Dumber, The Mask and Ace Ventura back-to-back-to-back.
Released in cinemas on 23 March 2018, Game Night should have been one of the biggest movies of that year. Not only because it boasted one of the best casts of that or any year - Jason Bateman, Rachel McAdams, Sharon Horgan, Billy Magnussen, Kyle Chandler, Jesse Plemons, Chelsea Peretti, Michael C. Hall, Danny Huston, Jeffrey Wright - but as we said at the time of its release, it contains something vitally missing from most big comedies: an actually funny, functioning script, and not just a group of actors asked to improv themselves into a plot.
Directors John Francis Daley and Jonathan Goldstein had previously helmed 2015's completely overlooked Vacation, a reboot of the classic 80s series of movies, and also much funnier than it was given credit for. In between, they provided the scripts for Horrible Bosses, Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs and Spider-Man: Homecoming, honing their comedic and visual crafts along the way.
It culminated in Game Night, which was put out into cinemas in the wake of the all-consuming first Black Panther movie. Costing $37 million to produce, it made $117 million worldwide. While that doesn't sound too bad, to put it in perspective, it made less than fellow 2018 releases Johnny English Strikes Again ($159m), The House With A Clock In Its Walls ($131m) and infamous box office bomb A Wrinkle In Time ($132m).
The plot of Game Night is so incredibly simple - a gang of friends who believe they're playing a fake mystery game don't realise they've been accidentally dragged into a very real and very dangerous mystery - that it feels like it was transplanted from the 80s, and we mean that as a massive compliment. Assisting the joke-ridden script is a group of very game comedic actors, each of them given their moment in the comedic spotlight, perhaps none moreso than McAdams ("Oh no... he died...").
But straight up comedies like this are so incredibly rare now, that when they do come along, they need to be seen on the big screen to guarantee that we'll get more like them. In the five years since this movie, the duo of Daley and Goldstein haven't had another project released, but thankfully that is all about to change, as their adaptation of Dungeons & Dragons is set to arrive in cinemas this March. And, thankfully, it looks VERY funny... (see below)
Game Night is available to rent right now on Rakuten TV, Google Play and the Sky Store.
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