No pun intended, but this film is nuts and not in a good way
BUDDY GAMES (2020)
Every few years, there’s this really great comedy that comes along with a great ensemble and a great plot. Just by watching the trailer, you already know deep down in your heart it’s going to be a cult classic that you can rewatch countless times and that you can share with your friends and family for years to come. Buddy Games is not that film.
Buddy Games is the directorial debut of actor Josh Duhamel. Now, Josh Duhamel is many things: a staple in the original Transformers trilogy, Fergie’s ex-husband, a Timothy Olyphant doppelgänger. If there’s one thing he isn’t though, it’s a director. The number one job of any director is to manage the chaos that their film creates, to filter it out to create a cohesive narrative the audience can follow. Here, however, between the “comedic” sequences and the seemingly random stunts that the Buddy Games are composed of, Duhamel never seems to be able to get that chaos under control. In addition to directing, Duhamel also co-wrote the script and co-stars, but his former contribution is easily and most noticeably his weakest.
The film revolves around a group of friends who, after a five year hiatus, reunite to compete in their own version of the Olympics. The Buddy Games, as they’re referred to, used to be a yearly event where the main characters would each partake in a bunch of Jackass-influenced physical and mental challenges; that is, until one of their own got into an accident. After learning that that same friend has now fallen into a depression, the friends decide that making him compete in the games again might be the only way to help him get his groove back. Along the way, they discover new things about each other and rediscover the true meaning of friendship.
You don’t have to read the film’s plot to know that this film has been done before. It absolutely borrows from so many other, better films, but that wasn’t my biggest problem with it. What upset me the most about this film was just how boring it was. Not only does it not try to do anything new, it has way too many stray and pointless plotlines that lead nowhere and add nothing to the overall story. The only good thing I have to say about this film is that it’s well paced. But a well paced mess is still a mess.
ACTING | CHARACTERS | DIALOGUE:
The film has a stellar cast. Despite having so many familiar faces though, no one is ever utilized to their full potential. Even Josh Duhamel’s presence and performance is scaled back - and he’s the lead. Besides Duhamel, the film features Nick Swardson, Dax Shepard, Kevin Dillon, James Roday, Dan Bakkedahl, and Olivia Munn! And while you might see some of those names and say to yourself, “Oh, they’re in this?” it doesn’t matter because mostly everyone is wasted. Of all the people in this cast, Bakkedahl - whose name might not stand out the most - plays the biggest role. While he’s not a relative unknown or newcomer, it's admittedly an odd choice to have so much of the film focus on him, though I can’t say he isn’t good. While not a star making performance, he is very fun to watch, and he does have some of the better scenes.
Nick Swardson is the real scene stealer in the film though, which should come as no surprise because he’s hilarious in anything that he’s in. What blows my mind the most about this film is just how little of a focus there is on Shepard, Dillon, and Roday. Shepard also gets this very odd dramatic arc that feels like it’s a part of a totally different film altogether, while Dillon and Roday get the Rosencrantz & Guildenstern treatment. How do you do that to Johnny Drama and Shawn Spencer? Most heartbreaking of all is the almost total absence of Olivia Munn, who despite getting top billing, is only in the film for about 5 minutes. She plays Duhamel’s character’s girlfriend, but other than that she has no real purpose in the film’s story. It goes without saying that there are just way too many characters, and Duhamel doesn’t know what to do with them all, which goes back into what I was saying about how he doesn’t know how to manage the film’s chaos.
VISUAL EFFECTS | MAKEUP | DESIGN:
There are a lot more horrible special effects in this film than there are good practical ones. For instance, at one point, one of our characters gets an arrow through his hand, and it looks absolutely believable. However, we also have to sit through not one, but two sequences involving CGI testicles. No pun intended, but this film is nuts and not in a good way.
MUSIC | SCORE | SOUND DESIGN:
There’s an entire sequence in a bar where the guys have to drink a laxative and try to score a girl before it kicks in. While it’s actually one of the film’s funnier moments, the fact that the sound of the guys passing gas doesn’t match up to their performances says all you need to know about the film’s sound design.
Buddy Games clearly takes inspiration from contemporary ensemble comedies like The Hangover and The 40-Year-Old Virgin, but it never amounts to anything other than an unfunny and forgettable attempt at comedy due to its lame execution and mismanaged cast.
BUDDY GAMES is Now Available On Demand, Digital and DVD