A year ago, Everything Everywhere All at Once premiered at the South by Southwest, therefore skipping the normal autumn film festivals in favor of the Austin event. It now appears on the precipice of winning Best Picture at the Oscars. We aren’t looking at the same storyline with SXSW in 2023 with its debut picture Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves. Could it have a role at all to play in next year’s awards mix?
It might. Based on the nearly half century old tabletop game that inspired many a filmmaker and writer, Jonathan Goldstein and John Francis Daley (who made 2018’s Game Night) direct. The cast includes Chris Pine, Michelle Rodriguez, Regé-Jean Page, Justice Smith, Sophia Lillis, Chloe Coleman, and Hugh Grant. Early fest reviews are encouraging as the Rotten Tomatoes score is 100% based on the limited reaction. The critical takes indicate this will appeal to die-hards of the source material and neophytes.
I certainly don’t think we’re looking at two years in a row of the likely BP winner coming from SXSW. However, Dungeons (out stateside on March 31) is being particularly praised for its Visual Effects and Production Design. I wouldn’t completely count this out to be a contender in either category (especially the former). My Oscar Prediction posts will continue…
Too many big studio comedies can be numbered by the handful of gags that work while the rest fall flat. This is thankfully not the case with GameNight. It’s gimmicky, sure. It’s a bit forgettable. Yet it’s consistently amusing and doesn’t overburden itself with too much sentimentality. As far as the genre goes as of late, that’s enough to mark this a success.
The pic comes from co-directors John Francis Daley and Jonathan Goldstein, who last made the more consistently unfunny Vacation reboot. Jason Bateman and Rachel McAdams are Max and Annie, married with no children even though she’s ready. Their biggest shared love is one of competitiveness, which includes their game nights with friends. Their usual group includes playboy Ryan (Billy Magnussen) and childhood sweethearts Kevin and Michelle (Lamorne Morris and Kylie Bunbury). Next door neighbor and police officer Gary (Jesse Plemons) is a former regular until his recent divorce has turned him into quite the weirdo.
Our main couple’s typical showing of charade and board gaming dominance is interrupted when Max’s brother Brooks (Kyle Chandler) pops up. Brooks is the ultra cool brother with a better bone structure and larger pocketbook that Max harbors jealousy for. Instead of Clue or Risk, Brooks has a different idea for game night involving a kidnapping and real actors interacting with the group. The players won’t know what’s real and what isn’t.
Wouldn’t you know it? Turns out some real kidnappers turn up and that Brooks may be involved in some seedy stuff. What follows is a search for a Faberge egg, guns that the principals think aren’t real (an overused gag by now), squeaky toys used to bite down on for pain (a never before seen gag that’s pretty darn funny), and Bateman’s patented ironic detachment that always seems to work.
Night is served with a game cast. Standouts include Plemons as the creepy but probably well-meaning neighbor and Magnussen as the dim bulb participant of the team. Sharon Horgan is his much smarter date for the evening and she provides some humorous moments as well. The screenplay also provides a twist or two that are genuinely surprising.
The actual concept of a game night may not be as joyous as it’s supposed to be on occasion. You need fun people there. This movie has them. Like real game nights, you may forget some of details by the next day but you’ll remember enjoying it.
Jason Bateman and Rachel McAdams are a couple whose night of innocent fun goes horribly wrong in the comedy Game Night, opening next Friday. From John Francis Daley and Jonathan Goldstein, the guys behind Horrible Bosses and the 2015 Vacation reboot, the pic costars Kyle Chandler, Billy Magnussen, Michael C. Hall, Jesse Plemons, and Jeffrey Wright.
Night could manage to appeal to moviegoers looking for a straight comedy in the midst of other genre fare in the marketplace. Black Panther will certainly being tearing up competition in weekend #2 and Annihilation is also out there for sci-fi fans. As far as movies reaching for the funny bone, this stands alone.
I could envision Game Night performing similarly to recent Bateman outings like Horrible Bosses 2 and Office Christmas Party. That would put it in the mid teens range for its start.
Game Night opening weekend prediction: $16.3 million