Game Night: the Youth of Older Middle Age

Game Night is a pleasant date night, if you pay matinee prices and there is the problem. The film is not good enough for paying full ticket prices at night. If you have MoviePass (cut the cord and get it), then this tension is solved: you can go to this meh film at night and not pay much at all. If only this much strategic thought had gone into the plot!

There is not much wrong with Game Night, but sadly right is not the opposite of wrong. One can be  not-wrong and merely OK.  It can be OK to be OK if you are OK with it ahead of time. This is movie for older people projecting younger than they are . . .the opposite of tween films that cast twenty-somethings as tweens. This casts older people as thirty-something marrieds.

My Mom describes my present age (54) as the youth of old age. If so, then the characters in Game Night are pretending to be in the youth of middle age. Will they have a kid? Why is Bateman with a wife a decade younger? When does hanging at the pub for trivia night make you look like the oldsters and not like the hipsters? The characters in the movie do not ask, though at forty-nine Jason Bateman is pushing the youth of old age harder than middle age.

The film is funny at times with periodic comedy sketches intruding on the plot. There is a bit on mobile phone settings that is worth a matinee ticket. We lol’ed. A very good film would have given a LOL that related to the plot directly. The best parts of this film were embedded like a tasty bit of butterscotch in mediocre ice cream.

The plot echoes screwball comedies written when my grandparents were actual youths. Think Arsenic and Old Lace, where Cary Grant and crew pull off a story that gets ever more mad until one does not know what to expect.  Game Night is Arsenic and Old Lace without Cary Grant or the same deft touch. How? The timing is off . . . There is a bit with a priceless artifact being tossed about that is either too slow or done by those without comedic timing. It is hard to tell which is the case.

Yet . . . One can imagine the bit funny and so one smiles. Is that good? Or merely on the way to good?

The couples having a game night face a murder game that may not be a game. For a film like this to work, one has to care about the couples involved, but the primary couple (Bateman/McAdams) have chemistry comedically, but not romantically. Everyone else is pleasant with the exception of the Officer Gary (Jesse Plemons) who is consistently odd in a funny way and played with a deft touch.

There are Nora Ephron touches to the film which reminds us that Nora Ephron was a great filmmaker and that Nora Ephron did not make this film.

The same cannot be said for the trailers shown before the film. Evidently going to a grownup comedy (the R rating is all about profanity) means that one is both decadent and one thinks oldsters delivering adolescent humor makes it grownup humor. The trailers were witless when not offensive. Ah well, the republic is in decay, but at least the popcorn was good and fountain drinks now come in a variety.


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