The concept of a game coming to life is definitely not new, and the latest movie about that is titled…Game Night. Yeah. Totally didn’t see that coming. The title is so generic that Googling “game night movie” turns up more clip art for hosting game nights than stuff about the movie. Am I the only one who thinks that’s a bad sign? It’s probably so the title translates easily in foreign markets without idioms to hold things back, but it doesn’t show much imagination, either.
Anyway, the film stars Jason Bateman and Rachel McAdams, and is what it sounds like: A group of friends get together for a game night. Where a guy shows up and tells them that one of them will be taken and the rest of the group has to find them. And there just might be a murder involved. The group gets thrown into a wild and crazy roller coaster ride that makes them (and us) long for regular life.
Here’s the trailer (and yes, that’s Kyle Chandler from Early Edition):
Hmmmm. At first glance, Game Night looks a lot like Clue and The Man Who Knew Too Little. It may not be exactly like them, but there’s probably quite a bit of overlap, anyway.
For those who haven’t seen it, Clue is a 1985 ensemble film based on the board game. It’s set in the nineteen-fifties, and is a roundup of the usual suspects: Miss Scarlett (Lesley Ann Warren), Colonel Mustard (Michael Mull), Mrs. White (Madeline Kahn), Mrs. Peacock (Eileen Brennan), Mr. Green (Michael McKean), and Professor Plum (Christopher Lloyd). There’s a butler, Wadsworth (Tim Curry) and a cook (Kellye Nakahara). There’s a French maid, of course. There always is, and in this case, her name is Yvette (Colleen Camp). The motley crew arrives at a mysterious mansion called Hill House to meet someone named Mr. Boddy (Lee Ving). While they’re awkwardly having dinner, the man in question shows up, and he looks like a mob henchman.
Which he kind of is. Mr. Boddy represents someone who has loads of dirt on each one of the characters, including Wadsworth, and blackmail on his mind. Wadsworth tells them if they want to escape the trap they’ve all been caught in, they have to come clean when the police arrive. Which will be in about forty-five minutes.
Uh huh. No pressure or anything. Not even after (spoiler alert) Mr. Boddy becomes a dead body, as do the cook, a hapless policeman, a poor singing telegram lady and a guy whose car broke down. Blackmail, schlackmail. As Wadsworth says, “We’re here to find out who did this and with what!”
So, who did do it and with what? Well…depends on which of the three random endings happen to play on the video transfer of one’s choice. Clue is a movie that is crazily self-deprecating and entertaining. It’s also for grownups, if you get my drift. Amazingly enough, it got mixed reviews, but we all know critics aren’t always right. 😉
Then there’s 1997’s The Man Who Knew Too Little, which is more dead-on as far as comparisons to Game Night go (no pun intended). Wallace Ritchie (Bill Murray) is in London to surprise his brother, James (Peter Gallagher), who works at a tony London bank. Wallace is a Blockbuster Video clerk from Des Moines, and he’s naïve to a fault. So naïve that he talks the poor customs agent’s ear off while waiting to get his passport stamped.
James is in line for a promotion at work. He needs to impress his bosses, and thinks his green-as-grass brother is going to be bored. To give Wallace something to do, James and his wife, Barbara (Anna Chancellor) send Wallace out on an interactive theater experience called Theatre of Life. James gets Wallace started by taking him to the first step, which is to answer a call in a phone booth. According to the usual procedure, Wallace would be called across the street to stop a guy from abusing his girlfriend, and the play would proceed from there. Instead, the voice on the other end calls Wallace “Spencer” and gives him an address: 60 Bishops Muse. The voice also intones ominously, “Don’t forget to flush.”
Trust me, you guys really don’t want too many spoilers with this one. Suffice it to say, Wallace’s life is one of eternally being at cross-purposes and never getting a clue. Fortunately for him, he doesn’t care all that much. No matter what happens, he believes he’s there to be an actor, while everyone else thinks he’s a crack secret agent. He’s like Inspector Gadget, only without the tchotchkes. Meanwhile, the real Spencer gets killed and Wallace finds a beautiful woman, Lori (Joanne Whalley) in a French maid’s outfit who needs help blackmailing her employer. What is it with these movies and French maids, not to mention blackmail?
Oh, and one more thing: Just when it seems The Man Who Knew Too Little can’t get any crazier, there’s Morris dancing, Russian dancing, and an exploding matreshka, which becomes a thing all of a sudden. The Russian dance is the first we see of it, and it’s not a big deal. Weird.
Honestly, the movie isn’t the greatest. It’s at its best when Bill Murray goes off script and puts more of himself into his role, even if it does make Wallace seem rather split. Still, it’s a ride, and can be a little funny, emphasis on “little.” Like Clue, it’s most definitely for the grownups.
So, let’s review. While it isn’t a completely fair assessment because we only have Game Night’s trailer to go by, some tried-and-true elements appear to be accounted for:
- Game gone real? Check.
- Unsuspecting party guest or guests? Check.
- Blackmail? Check (two out of three for sure, anyway).
- Body count? Check.
- Hairpin plot turns? Check.
- Running around like mad? Big ol’ check.
- French maid in a skimpy uniform? Check…sorta. Lori’s only wearing the costume, and IMDb‘s Game Night cast list seems to indicate the archetypical French maid has been replaced by Hot Dates and Club Girls.
Both Clue and The Man Who Knew Too Little are of the so-maddening-they-can-be-diverting variety. Game Night, who really knows. It might be cute. At least Clue and Man are rated PG, unlike Game Night, which sports an R. In any case, it will be interesting to see how it stacks up to its predeccessors. Or they may all be crazy. Time will tell…
Thanks for reading, everyone, and see you on Sunday for the Elizabeth Taylor Blogathon! Have a good one. 🙂