By Jack Dignan
Everybody loves a good game. No matter your skill level or sense of competitiveness, games are fun. With Game Night, however, the basic principle of the game is taken to a whole other level. What happens when the game becomes more than a game? What if it becomes reality? That, unfortunately, is the circumstance our poor protagonists find themselves wrapped up in. Thankfully for them, this isn’t the new Saw movie. It’s the unofficial big-screen Cluedo adaptation we’ve always dreamed about.
Married couple Max (Jason Bateman) and Annie (Rachel McAdams) are very competitive people. In fact, their competitiveness is what resulted in their meeting, and life’s been going uphill ever since. But Max is suffering from an abnormal amount of stress in his life, and this stress can be traced all the way back to a childhood of living in his older brother Brooks’ (Kyle Chandler) shadow. So when Brooks comes into town, Max and Annie’s weekly game night is taken up a notch. Brooks enlists the help of a company who help stage a murder mystery involving one of the players. Unfortunately for them, this murder mystery is overrun by… well… an actual murder mystery.
With Brooks kidnapped, and the players unsure about what’s real and what’s not, they’ve got to band together to follow the clues and come out victorious. Also in the mix are Michelle (Kylie Bunbury) and boyfriend Kevin (Lamorne Morris), as well as Ryan (Billy Magnussen) and his co-worker/potential love interest Sarah (Sharon Horgan). Game Night is an absolutely bonkers tale of a game that gets way out of hand, with laughs bouncing in left, right and centre. There’s not a dull moment to be found within this stylized, over the top romp of a comedy that’s the funniest film I’ve seen in a long time.
Jason Bateman and Rachel McAdams share great comedic chemistry, going back and forth with each other non-stop throughout. You really buy into their relationship as a couple and, oddly enough, care for their personal narratives. There’s a significant sub-plot involving their desires to have a baby and, while predictable, it’s undeniably sweet. But the entire cast is absolutely hysterical here, with, shockingly enough, Jesse Plemons stealing the show. Plemons is quickly becoming one of my favourite young actors, and he’s been on an absolute winning streak as of late with this, The Post, Black Mirror, American Made, Fargo and more. We need more movies with Jesse Plemons ominously stroking dogs.
It’s a plot so ridiculous and over the top that it works. The cast rolls with it, never questioning it, and it just adds to the delight that is this movie. Some of the moments throughout are really, incredibly stupid, but even the stupidest of scenes still managed to make me smile. A scene where McAdams has to remove a bullet from Bateman’s arm is the perfect example of this. It’s an overly dumb scene, yet it still got a reaction out of me. The weakest link is, by far, Billy Magnussen’s Ryan. His idiocies are fun at times, especially during his introduction, but he doesn’t get as much to work with. The jokes are all a bit repetitive.
Once we do get to the third act, things become a little convoluted. Screenwriter Mark Perez throws an abundance of twists at you all in the span of about twenty minutes, and not all of them add up. Most of them are predictable, some of them you predict then completely forget about until they actually happen, and some of them just don’t make any sense. Logic isn’t something you’ll find in Game Night, but fun certainly is. It’s a film you’re better off not over-analysing. The jokes are amazing, these actors even more so, but it all comes falling apart when you look for consistency.
Still, I had an absolute blast with this movie, and this isn’t a Jumanji situation where, realistically, the film itself isn’t great, but it’s a hell of a lot of fun. Game Night is legitimately well made. Co-directors John Francis Daley and Jonathan Goldstein have a knack for filmmaking, using Game Night as a cleansing pallet for their earlier work. Their previous film, Vacation, was pretty fucking awful, but with Game Night they find themselves redeemed. My rating is fair to what this film deserves, but in terms of pure entertainment, comedies have a lot to live up throughout the rest of the year.
3 1/2 Stars
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