The Friendship Game is Damien Ober’s first feature-length screenplay and only the second full-length title to be directed by Scooter Corkle. The plot centers on best friends Cotton (Kaitlyn Santa Juana), Z (Zooza, but that’s a Scottish dog show, so Z it is; Peyton List), Courtney (Kelcey Mawema), and Rob (Brendan Meyer). One day, while rummaging at a yard sale, Cotton and Z find a strange-looking item. A lady creepily tells them that it is “The Friendship Game,” which tests true friendship by having the friends tell their deepest desires. For reasons that only make sense to meth addicts, Cotton and Z don’t run from this person in fear. No, they buy the orb and decide to play it.
All four friends place their fingers on the object and tell each other their desires. Smash cut to a party where Cotton tries to warn Courtney that something seems amiss. Courtney ignores her friend, so Cotton searches for Rob and Z. Well, she finds them all right, just as they are getting busy. Shocked and appalled, Cotton storms off. But she’s then murdered. Who killed her, and how does Cotton’s death tie into the titular game?
Before I dig the grave for The Friendship Game, let’s discuss its solitary saving grace: Peyton List. The actor rose to fame thanks to her roles in some hit Disney shows and solid voice-acting work. For me, this is only the second live-action project I’ve seen List in (excluding 27 Dresses when she was ten or so). As such, I had no preconceived notions of her abilities. Thankfully, List proves why she’s been constantly working for decades.
“…Cotton storms off. But she’s then murdered.”
List effortlessly makes the cringe-inducing dialogue sound believable. She is the only cast member to properly inject any sense of drama or fear into the proceedings. At one point, a detective investigating Cotton’s disappearance asks Z if she’s on drugs. List quips back, “Right at this very moment?” It’s the only good back-and-forth during the entire 97-minute runtime. Big fans of List won’t be disappointed in her. As for the rest of the movie…
The Friendship Game is awful on every conceivable level. Excluding List, the cast is excruciatingly awkward. Mawema overreacts to everything; every slight against her, from not having a lighter to a friend’s death, is on the same plane of frustration. This baffling choice makes the character seem inhuman, thereby not allowing audiences to empathize or sympathize with her. Juana does not fare much better.
Meyer ends up the worst. He has no charm, no spark, no screen presence. This lack of charisma kills his character in his first scene, as he’s not smooth enough to pull off several moments needed to move the story along. The supporting cast is equally terrible. Miranda Edwards plays the detective monotone the whole time. As Z’s mom, Jennifer Copping is so disconnected, she might be the sci-fi element because the character has to be an android.
"…one of the worst films of the year."