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The Definition of Mediocrity… (A Game Night Review)

You know what I haven’t said about a movie review in a long time… “well, I guess that was a movie.” Usually when I say that, it’s when there’s a movie coming out that I feel like has a lot of expectations behind it, that seemed like maybe it was going to fail and which pulled things out and managed to get something watchable. You know, when it’s like say the 7th film in a space opera franchise and you’re like “oh wow, there’s something there for the first time in 4 films…” Yeah… that sort of thing.

Well, this isn’t quite it. Because there’s no Game Night franchise. I don’t think anyone was looking for this movie. And the cast isn’t huge or exciting. No one was sitting around saying “hey, I’d love to see a whole thing where Rachel McAdams and Jason Bateman do a wacky husband and wife crime caper movie.” But, hey… why not, that could be fun right?

And it is. It’s fun. It’s… well… fun.

There’s not much more to say about it than that. And that’s maybe the most interesting thing about it. It is a completely serviceable movie. If you have MoviePass or $10 burning a hole in your pocket and exactly 100 minutes of time to burn and you want to spend it laughing at a moving picture… well, this gives you that. And that’s an achievement.

But it’s also a problem, that I think is really indicative of the maybe the problem with the movie industry. There’s no reason whatsoever for you to go out and see this in a theater. I mean, I don’t think you will regret it if you do. But there’s no reason you have to. I’ve had some interesting conversations with people about going out to the movies in the wake of the academy awards… in fact, I even talked about this briefly when I was on the Sectarian Review podcast last week. There are lots of movies that get made. People often wonder why things like Black Panther or Wonder Woman can’t win the Best Picture Oscar. And I always say “well, it’s not very good… it’s just fun.” And then people tell me their reasons why it should have been best picture and I ask them if they saw the other movies, and most of the time they say no. And this is a problem. Not just because I think they’re missing some really great movies. But because if everyone only goes to the same four blockbuster movies every year, then what we end up with is mediocrity. Hollywood just making the same movies over and over again.

The problem is, there’s no reason to go out and see this movie. There’s no reason not to either. But there’s no reason to go. One of the main reasons I hear people saying that they don’t go out to movies is that there isn’t much point. Why spend $10-15 a person, plus food, plus babysitter money to watch something that you could enjoy more sitting on your couch and watching on your 50+ inch TV and pause when you want to go to the bathroom or something. And this movie doesn’t give you a compelling reason not to do that. I enjoyed it. I laughed. I was engaged… but mostly just because because I was there. And if I wasn’t there… well, I really wouldn’t have missed out on much.

Back when Office Christmas Party came out, I was actually somewhat excited, but as I admitted in my review of that film, mostly it was just because of a single song on the soundtrack. This didn’t have that. But that said, that ended up being a pretty bad movie. As I said back then, they tried to do a by-the-numbers boob-fest comedy… except that they forgot the boobs and that made it … pretty much unwatchable (fun fact, somehow, according to my website stats, that’s like my most popular movie review. People come back to it constantly and I have no idea why). This did better than that… it is EXACTLY a by-the-numbers couples caper movie. It is EXACTLY by those numbers. There’s nothing missing. There’s nothing added. And those numbers are … fine.

But what it really makes me wonder is “why do this?” Back in the old days we had two kinds of motion picture entertainment. Weekly TV stuff and then special occasion prestige movie stuff. I’m kind of beginning to wonder if maybe we need to have a third new category. Because there is better stuff than this available on TV. And stuff that is worse too. If this was a made for TV movie, I might have said “Wow, they tried to go all out for that! Missed a little bit, but good effort.” But as a film production thing, I just kind of wonder “does Jason Bateman have a 47 picture deal with Amblin Entertainment and we’re just burning through it?”

So really, it’s funny enough… it’s a movie… if it happens to be playing in front of you on some sort of screen, you might as well keep looking at it. But certainly not worth going out of the way for.

★★½☆☆ (2.5 out of 5 stars)



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