Directed by John Francis Daley & Jonathan Goldstein
Written by Mark Perez
I am a very competitive person. So much so that I admittedly get too worked up sometimes even over the friendliest of games. I just don’t like to lose, what can I say? Not surprising to anyone then, I am a big fan of games of all varieties. Card games, board games, sports games, trivia games, etc. You name it, I’ll play it, and try to win! So a movie based on game night!? Yes please! The only problem is how many times have we seen a comedy bomb in the month of February. I know last year, when Fist Fight came out, I was gravely disappointed, as that film remain near the bottom of my list of 2017 movies throughout the entire year. February is often a barren wasteland for new releases, but already this month we’ve been treated to Black Panther, so can Game Night breakthrough the February blues and be a viable date night movie too?
Max (Jason Bateman) is uber competitive, so when he meets fellow competitive trivia captain Annie (Rachel McAdams) at a bar trivia night, sparks flew immediately and the rest was history. Flash forward a few years and Max and Annie are the constant game night hosts with their close friends (Lamorne Morris, Kylie Bunbury, Billy Magnussen), excluding their creepy cop neighbor Gary (Jesse Plemons) after his divorce from their close friend. When Max’s successful brother Brooks (Kyle Chandler) comes to town, he offers to host the game night in hopes of impressing with an ordered murder mystery setup. The only problem is, when Brooks gets taken, it isn’t part of the game, it’s real, and sets off a series of events like none of them have ever experience before on game night.
At first blush, the premise of this film may sound a little ridiculous, and it is. And yet the filmmakers make it work, and the cast make it believable enough. “Enough” is the key word there. This is a comedy we are dealing with, so reality can be bent pretty far without wearing out the comedic welcome of the rest of the film. Certainly there are some bonkers scenarios here, but they are all played for laughs and executed extremely well. In fact, the twists and turns of the film, of which there are plenty, are one of the films’ strengths. It’s never quite what you expect, but in a very good way, and always accompanied with laughter along the way.
In fact, the plot is a strength, but what makes this movie really tick is the details. Comedy works in so many very different ways. In Game Night the scenarios are funny, but the little one liners and visual gags are just as important to making this a well rounded comedy that offers laughs at every turn, as opposed to just the broader humor offered by the setup alone. Enhancing the material is the ensemble, which is very well cast from top to bottom. Bateman and McAdams are the leads, and work very well together. It is refreshing to see McAdams shine once again (she gives us the best line reading of the movie). Jesse Plemons really steals the show in his supporting role, however, creating enough of a character to hide behind his caricature.
Expectations often have a lot to do with how one received a certain film. A February comedy is never asked to bring this many laughs. But I hate when people say “it’s better than expected”, or “surprisingly good”. All this serves to do is reveal that the film has ben pre-judged. Game Night is a good movie, it’s a great comedy. Period. I don’t need to say anything more and want to give the film its due. If I laugh this much or this hard in another comedy this year, it will be a good year for comedies. It actually feels like it has been a few years since we’ve been offered a comedy this good. Spy (2015), What We Do in the Shadows (2014), 21 Jump Street (2012) and Bridesmaids (2011) are the last I enjoyed as much as I enjoyed Game Night. Somewhat a accusation against the genre in recent years, but also a rather glowing endorsement of this film in particular.