THE FRIENDSHIP GAME (2022)
Release Date: 11/14/22 [Cinemas / VOD]
Studio: RLJE Films
"A group of teenagers in a small town discover a strange object that tests the strength of their friendship"
OUR MOVIE REVIEW:
The Friendship Game begins with two friends, Cotton (Kaitlyn Santa Juana) and Zooza (Peyton List), at a yard sale. They come across an odd black object with designs carved into the sides. It screams something sinister and an older woman (Miriam Smith) explains to them that it’s a friendship game. You tell the game your deepest desires and if you can stay friends all the way through the game, you win, but if you don’t no one will survive. Of course they pick up the game and play. They’re joined by their two other friends Robbie (Brendan Meyer) and Courtney (Kelcey Mawema) as they begin to play.
The movie then alternates between the four friends playing the game, a party they attend shortly after, and the journey they each go on as their lives devolve into chaos when Cotton goes missing. While the premise is intriguing, the delivery is somewhat lacking. A younger neighborhood boy named Kyle (Dylan Schombing) has been hacking into laptop cameras and watches the friends play the game. As they begin losing the game, people start “glitching” and sometimes collide in a world of blue and red. The game is somehow connected to technology, but you’re not quite sure how. There is also a brief comment that alludes to alternate universes which isn’t ever fully explored. The premise felt like a bad riff-off of Jumanji and at one point the game even begins making a humming sound that will remind you of the steady beat that Jumanji is famous for.
Despite the somewhat unclear script from writer Damien Ober, the acting is what prevents the movie from being totally lackluster. Peyton List puts in a very solid performance as Zooza who struggles from abandonment issues from her father leaving. She is angsty at all the right moments and has decent chemistry with her co-stars. Kaitlyn Santa Juana is memorable as Cotton, the one who pushes her friends to play the game. She has the difficult task of establishing a strong presence early that will be felt throughout the movie after her character mysteriously disappears. But she does it with ease. The real standout is Kelcey Mawema who has the most scenes in which she has to be legitimately afraid. Her emotions feel real and she brings a dominant presence to the screen.
The Friendship Game is compelling enough to keep you invested initially, even if the exposition at the very beginning makes you cringe. You’ll want to keep watching to see what happened to Cotton and to see if the friends can stick together and “win” the game. Is it an alternate universe? Is any of it real or just a technology glitch caused by the game? You won’t be entirely sure of anything by the end.