Asa Butterfield has had a rather illustrious career and often plays characters who are distinguished by their childish innocence and heroic nature. Even in darker movies like the Boy in the Striped pajamas, Butterfield is almost always the centerpiece of the movie. For better or worse, Butterfield has made a total of 180 in type this year with all the games and the fun.
For all the fun and games, Butterfield swaps the melancholy youth of Hugo and Ender’s title characters for the temperamental and cynical Marcus Fletcher, a brother of two children who eventually falls in love with an evil entity incarnated in a cursed knife that owns him and his siblings, causing them to commit terrible atrocities, including murder.
His character has shades of real scapegoats like the West Memphis Three, a misanthropic teenager growing up in Salem, Massachusetts, who likes to play the drums, smoke marijuana in his room, and fangoria. Marcus has two siblings, his sister Billie (Natalia Dyer) and his younger brother Jonah or “Jo” (Benjamin Evan Ainsworth).
How Asa Butterfield Deviates from Previous Appearances in ‘All Fun and Games’
The film itself is not so interesting, since it falls into many areas that can be seen in numerous supernatural horror films, in particular, in the Evil Dead films. Although they were released in the same year, both All Fun and Games and Evil Dead Rise have a lot of superficial similarities that only diminish the experience of seeing the former, since it will probably remind you of the latter and how much better and more visceral this movie is.
Since the film does not have much to offer in terms of horrors or deaths, the main attraction with all the fun and games is undoubtedly its cast, which features some of the brightest and most recognizable young actors working today, especially within the horror genre. Dyer, who has been best known as Nancy Wheeler in Stranger Things for the past decade, has also been stretching as a lower-indie fare actor, and Ainsworth is best known for Mike Flanagan’s The Haunting of Bly Manor. Both actors give competent and convincing performances, but mostly adhere to what is expected of them.
Butterfields Marcus is completely broke. He is tired of his younger brother constantly getting into trouble and is counting on Marcus to get him out of it, a conflict that solidifies in the first fifteen minutes of the film. When two older bullies of Marcus’ age make rude sexual comments about Billie to the two brothers on the way home, Jo takes revenge by throwing them muddy in the car, which leads to a fight between Marcus and the two older boys.
Although Marcus has shed enough blood to claim the boys’ honor, he is understandably very upset and blows up his younger brother. The anger in Butterfield’s expression and portrayal is unlike anything the 26-year-old actor has shown so far. He has a piercing gaze that seems to pass right through you. Combined with a strangely nervous look, including pierced ears and light stubble, Butterfield is unrecognizable, especially in the second half, in which he becomes obsessed and turns into a puppet for the main opponent.
Asa Butterfield is not at her best in ‘all the fun and Games’
Unfortunately, it is in this second half of the film that Butterfield’s performance drops, bypassing the stock line. Although it is clear that he has the potential to make an imposing presence on the screen, but as soon as he begins to speak with a voice that can only be called a “possessive voice”, Marcus’s character completely loses its sharpness and turns into a self-parody.
This intuitively feels like a directing problem, and less like a problem from Butterfield, who otherwise gives a good performance and preaches the Big Brother dynamics and angst that come with his character. Butterfield also has great chemistry with his colleagues, whose relationships are clearly conveyed from the very beginning.
However, his performance as an obsessive is not entirely convincing. The obsessed Marcus has hints of Heath Ledger’s Joker and Pennywise, which gives a slightly eccentric cadence to his voice and mannerisms. In 2023, the “somewhat quirky and decentralized” villain trope is so tired that he takes one out of the movie completely, unless it’s done in a completely unique way.
Asa Butterfield gives everything, but the film simply can not overcome its own unintentional campiness, turning an almost decent and watchable, albeit forgettable, horror film in the first half into a possessive comedy that is unlikely to be taken seriously. However, it cannot be overemphasized that Asa Butterfield’s unconvincing performance, given his considerable talent and the serious lack of self-confidence for all funny and entertaining games, is in other respects simply a symptom of a film that does not really have much to offer.
‘All Fun and Games’ Doesn’t Use Its Cast Properly
Asa Butterfield is not unique when it comes to young actors who want to grow out of the roles in which they were embodied. For example, in Sin City, Elijah Wood turned from a lovable hobbit into a psychotic cannibal, and, of course, several famous Disney actors tried to break out of their performers in the notorious Spring Breakers.
Unfortunately, while it has worked for many other young actors, All Fun and Games is not a confirmation that Asa Butterfield is in violation of the guy. He is undeniably talented and his reach has been proven in several of his most notable projects, including sex education, and hopefully he will have more extensive roles to explore in the future.
Butterfield undoubtedly has the screen presence necessary to be a convincing and nervous villain, but the direction that must have been given to him was very difficult. The tone of the film certainly did not help in this, since he does not know whether to lean into the field or go in a more serious direction. The cinematography is extremely monotonous and excessively dark, but what happens on the screen belongs to a much more cheesy film.
Someone had to tell the filmmakers that a cursed knife is neither remotely scary, nor that the acceleration of the camera movement makes the viewer shudder down his back. All three main actors, Dyer, Ainsworth and especially Butterfield, do their best with what they are given, but none of them can save this unfortunate disaster from a movie.