The subject of Buddy Games is purportedly the undying union of lifelong friendship, but one would be forgiven for thinking it was the lasting damage of psychological torment and physical violence. To explain, the film follows a group of supposed friends who regularly hold a competition between them that involves a series of humiliating and debilitating games. After a few years of absence from each other – which seems to have been the best thing for all of them – they come back together for one last extravaganza. In other words, Josh Duhamel’s directorial debut is an extended act of regression in just about every way, featuring a disastrous competition at the start and a bunch of bad decisions to follow. The result is annoying, then aggravating, and finally infuriating.

Duhamel, in addition to directing and co-writing the film (with Bob Schwartz and Jude Weng), stars as Bob, the de facto leader of the central group of friends, to whom he is known as “Bobfather.” The other friends include Shelly (Dan Bakkedahl), Doc (Kevin Dillon), Durfy (Dax Shepard), Zane (James Roday) and Bender (Nick Swardson). The opening sequences – following a bit of narration from Bob that attempts to offer something akin to a justification for what follows (i.e., real friends bully each other to their limits or some such nonsense) – set the stage. During one fateful Buddy Games celebration, a horrible thing happens: In answer to an aggressive paintball fight, Bender intentionally shoots Shelly directly in the scrotum with one of the pellets in the gun.

A lot of questions might have just arisen, but the main one will be, “Why was Shelly’s scrotum exposed in the first place,” to which the answer will just be an exasperated sigh of resignation. This, clearly, is an exhibition of crude humor, but while that wouldn’t typically be a problem in itself (because a lot of good movies have been crude and rude and, almost certainly, lewd), there isn’t anything below the crude rudeness of this set-up. Questioning why a sensitive area of Shelly’s nether regions was exposed to the air is as fruitless as questioning why Bender would intentionally shoot him at all. We cannot understand these empty vessels passing as people. We just have to pray that some kind of guiding principle rears its head. Spoiler alert: It never does.

Anyway, five years pass. Bob is dating Tiff (Olivia Munn), who really wants him to propose. Durfy has used the interim period to pursue acting, which isn’t going well. Bender is now living in his mom’s van. Doc and Zane are, uh, doing stuff (the screenplay really does these specific characters no favors). The major question mark is Shelly, who ghosted his so-called friends and disappeared from public life. Bob reunites with the poor guy, who seems to have had his spirits broken, and a truce is reached: As long as they hold the Buddy Games one more time to make up for the last one (which was punctuated with the scrotal event with no declared winner) and Bender is not invited, all will be forgiven. Bob invites Bender anyway, luring him with a deceit right upfront.

That’s because Bob, in just about any other movie and under any alternate circumstances, would be the villain of this tale. Duhamel and his co-screenwriters seem to revere all these characters, though, and seem to be having a lot of fun setting up this collection of games, which culminates in the men wearing padded jumpsuits and using bows and arrows on each other. Yes, you read that right, and yes, someone gets injured again. Injury is what started the major conflict in Buddy Games, and it factors heavily into the resolution of that conflict. Such are the ways of this dreadful comedy, which digs its heels in even more with how it handles the romance between Bob and Tiff. Upon reflection, it isn’t surprising to learn that the movie dislikes women, too.

Summary
We cannot understand these empty vessels passing as people.
10 %
Zero Laughs
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