Game night in the suburbs, particularly amongst adults, is usually a pretty boring affair unless someone has a bit too much wine. In the new movie Game Night that’s usually the case as a group of friends regularly gets together to have a bit of fun. One night Brooks (Kyle Chandler) says he’s put together a whole mystery for people to solve that will seem super-real. So when he’s actually abducted, is it part of the game or something more sinister?
That’s what the rest of the crew has to figure out. Annie (Rachel McAdams) and her husband Max (Jason Bateman) along with Kevin (Lamorne Morris), Michelle (Kylie Bunbury) and others find themselves pulled increasingly out of their depth as they wind up having to navigate the criminal underworld to get their friend back and avoid getting into trouble themselves.
The first teaser poster just has the title treatment along with some dice and other game pieces scattered around the image. The second adds Bateman and McAdams’ names and has Scrabble pieces spelling out an invective, with a letter conveniently out of place so as to avoid actually cursing.
One more poster used the games motif, showing a bunch of generic board game pawns, one of which has fallen over and is bleeding and one of which is wearing a ski mask. “This is not a game” is the fairly generic copy at the top but the main value proposition seems to be that the movie come “From the guys who brought you Horrible Bosses.” Those were fairly popular films, but I don’t know that there’s a strong desire in the general audience to follow their careers specifically.
The first trailer opens at a basic suburban game night that ends with the host being kidnapped, something the guests think is part of the game. Eventually they figure out things aren’t what they seem and set out to find him and figure out what’s happening, which leads to gun use, car chases, dogs being soaked in blood, gangsters being sucked into airplane engines and other hijinks.
It seems funny enough for these kind of generically-named comedies. Bateman looks dependable as always and its clear things get out of control quickly. The main takeaway for me, though, is that someone remembered how funny McAdams could be. Her line reading in response to the guy dying in the airplane engine is spot-on.
The same trailer came out again after a release date change was made by Warner Bros.
We see how Annie and Max met when the official trailer opens and see that they share a competitive streak. Then we’re back on familiar territory with a game night being setup that’s unlike any other. Mostly it’s the same beats, with a few additional gags thrown in.
Online and Social
The official website opens with the second trailer. After that the site offers the same kind of material that’s common for the minimal effort studios seem to be putting into their sites: “Trailer” just has that one trailer, the “Gallery” has some stills to peruse and download while “Story” has a synopsis. There’s also a place to buy “Tickets” and links to the movie’s Facebook, Twitter and Instagram accounts.
Advertising and Cross-Promotions
TV advertising began with a couple spots that aired during the NFL playoffs. Both hit the same kinds of beats as the trailers, showing the insane antics that result from what should have been a boring, ordinary get together. They both use the scene of Bateman’s character being shot and more, so the message is largely the same, just in a more compact form. Other online and social media ads used the key art or the videos.
Media and Publicity
Given the charming cast that’s been assembled it’s a bit surprising that there seems to have been such a lackluster publicity effort mounted. Morris, Jesse Plemons and Kyle Chandler seem to have done most of the online fan Q&As and other events while there were only a few brief stories with the two leads, including this short interview with McAdams. Bateman was kind of absent from the press, at least at the time of this writing.
What to make of this campaign? On the one hand you have, as I pointed out above, Hollywood finally remembering how funny Rachel McAdams is by giving her something to do beyond just reacting to a male co-star. And it does look like a generally funny movie with solid performances by her, Bateman, Morris, Chandler and others in a kind of farce about people getting in over their heads and just trying to make it out alive.
On the other none of the posters use that cast. And there’s almost no publicity effort to speak of. So does New Line actually want people to see the movie, or are they just kind of hoping this one squeaks out enough to be profitable and move on, pretending it didn’t happen. It’s hard to tell as there’s no real consistent through line to the campaign, meaning the movie might get some “well we already saw Black Panther” business but who knows how much else.
Chris Thilk is a freelance writer and content strategist who lives in the Chicago suburbs.