After taking on a reboot of National Lampoon’s Vacation in their first co-directorial effort, John Francis Daley and Jonathan Goldstein are working together again on Game Night. The comedy stars Jason Bateman and Rachel McAdams in a movie that puts a humorous spin on something reminiscent of Michael Douglas‘ film The Game.
Hyper-competitive couple Max (Bateman) and Annie Davis (McAdams) enjoy a weekly game night with their friends: Kevin (Lamorne Morris; New Girl) and Michelle (Kylie Bunbury), and Ryan (Billy Magnussen) and his girlfriend of the week. Their neighbour, Gary (Jesse Plemons), was part of the group prior to his divorce, but now they find him weird and work out elaborate excuses to exclude him.
Their regular game night is thrown into disarray when Max’s highly successful brother Brooks (Kyle Chandler; Friday Night Lights) shows up and offers to host. When they arrive, Brooks tells them that he’s hired a company to create a murder mystery, and whoever solves it will win an expensive car he owns. Shortly after it begins, however, two people kick down the door and kidnap Brooks as everyone looks on believing it to be part of the game.
It doesn’t take them long to figure out that what’s happening is real, and that Brooks is in serious danger having run afoul of someone known simply as The Hungarian. With larger stakes than ever, Max and his friends must figure out a way to save his brother before it’s too late.
While Bateman is largely playing the “I’m cooler than everyone else” role once again, his feelings of insecurity as it relates to Brooks give him a little more vulnerability. He and McAdams have good chemistry, something that was missing in his last starring turn, Office Christmas Party, and they play off each other very well. The scene where she’s administering first aid as Bateman bites down on a squeaky toy is one of the movie’s best.
Game Night‘s supporting cast is strong as well. Magnussen, fresh off his delightfully smarmy showing in Ingrid Goes West, has a lot of the best lines as the clueless Ryan that keeps bringing vapid young women as his dates. Morris and Bunbury have a fun subplot surrounding which celebrity she slept with while the two of them were briefly broken up, and Plemons plays the creepy neighbour perfectly.
One of the movie’s strengths is keeping the humour coming without becoming overly manic with the delivery. There are enough lulls to give the best jokes space to breathe, and there is a number of silly one-offs (like rich person fight club or the fertility doctor) that get played out as we go. It ends up being a very well-paced mix of clever lines and slapstick physical comedy.
A lot of the beats are very similar to past Bateman fare, and though we’d consider this one of the better (maybe even the best) of his comedic movies, you need to at least possess some amount of affinity for Bateman. In other words, if you haven’t enjoyed his other work odds are you won’t enjoy this, either.
At around 100 minutes, Game Night feels a little long. The plot twists and turns on several occasions, and by the time we reach the last one it came across as excessive. That’s not to say there are no more laughs following said twist — like the hitman complementing McAdams’ ass — but it could’ve wrapped it up earlier.
THE BONUS FEATURES
Game Night offers little in the way of extras with a gag reel and a “making of” featurette combining to cover less than 10 minutes. There are a few funny moments from the outtakes, but there’s nothing you need to see. Then again, it’s all short so you might as well check it out.
While Game Night won’t go down as a great comedy, it’s fun for what it is, offering up an enthusiastic cast and plenty of legitimate laughs.