On paper, the setup and plot of Game Night can seem ho-hum: ultra-competitive guy and girl meet cute, fall in love, start having a group of friends over regularly for a game night, and here’s the time that things got out of control. However, the film is filled with enough twists and turns, an amazing ensemble cast led by Jason Bateman and Rachel McAdams, and a confident self-awareness that elevates this comedy well beyond its contemporaries.
The emotional drive of the story revolves around Max (Bateman) and Annie (Rachel McAdams) who, during the opening credits of the movie, meet and fall in love at a bar trivia night. Cue a very funny montage to bring us to present day, and the two are married and frequently host a game night with their closest friends. Board games, trivia, jenga, and charades are among the the playlist. From there we find out Max and Annie are trying to have a baby, but there are some issues with Max, which Annie deduces could be from the stress of his ultra-successful, one-upping older brother Brooks (Kyle Chandler) coming into town. Brooks decides to host the next game night at his rented mansion while he’s in town and the film really takes off from there. To say anything more would spoil the fun.
Game Night benefits from a very quick, straight-forward setup and great pacing throughout. There is a hardly a dull-moment without a laugh, and while some of the one-liners can devolve into timely pop-culture references, overall there are more genuinely earned moments than not. For those of you who worry that this film spoiled its’ best moments in the trailers, I can tell you they kept the best up their sleeve.
While the characters themselves are very common archetypes, the performances are all top-notch. Rachel McAdams, who typically plays the “straight-girl” in comedies and mainly does dramas really impresses and has great chemistry with the always reliable Bateman. She’s got some great comedy chops. Lamorne Morris plays a variation of his New Girl character Winston, but gets to showcase a bit more range here. Billy Magnussen’s Ryan is the typical ‘good-looking, shallow, dumb jock’ character, but he does it so well with spot-on timing and commitment that although we’ve seen this character a million times it doesn’t get old.
However, the real standout is Jesse Plemons’ turn as Max and Annie’s police neighbor, Gary. I’m so glad they mostly kept this role under wraps and didn’t show too much of him in the trailer. He absolutely steals every scene he is in and is probably the best part of the movie. Even if you’re on the fence, go see it just for him.
Directing duo John Francis Daley and Jonathan Goldstein show they have a deft hand for comedy. Although their previous directorial effort, Vacation (the first in a planned reboot of the National Lampoon series), underwhelmed critics and the box office, I see Game Night going on to perform and be received much better. The pair are also the writing team behind Spider-Man: Homecoming and Horrible Bosses. It’s safe to say if you liked the latter, you will also enjoy Game Night. I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that they are being tapped to direct the upcoming Flashpoint movie for the DCEU.
Game Night also stars Sharon Hogan, Kylie Bunbury, Chelsea Peretti, Michael C. Hall and Danny Huston. Game Night opens in theatres this Friday, February 23rd.