Game Night, directed by John Francis Daley and Jonathan Goldstein and written by Mark Perez, is a movie that could have gone any which way. It has a talented cast and is spoofing a popular movie genre—thrillers—but it was released in February, which is most times a dumping ground for bad films. What’s the verdict? Is this a game you’ll want to play?
Max (Jason Bateman) and Annie (Rachel McAdams) are a happy couple that met through their love of games. Both are hyper-competitive, but their relationship hits a snag as they have trouble getting pregnant. Things are not made easier when Max’s successful brother, Brooks (Kyle Chandler), shows up in town. All his life, Max has never measured up to Brooks and he thinks that particular stress is why he and Annie can’t conceive. She isn’t so sure. So, when Brooks invites Max and Annie’s regular gaming group—minus creepy cop Gary (Jesse Plemons)—over to his lavish home, he promises a game night none of them will forget. Brooks is then promptly kidnapped out of his home, while Max, Annie, and their friends believe it’s all part of the game Brooks put together. Hilarity ensues.
And I mean that last part. Game Night is very funny. Not all the jokes land and certain aspects of the story are completely unbelievable or resolve too easily, but I was surprised at how funny the film is. There are several satisfying payoffs throughout, which keeps the audience engaged. Also, the thriller genre is ripe for spoofs like this. Daley and Goldstein have made their bones mainly as writers, (Horrible Bosses, Spider-Man: Homecoming), so they definitely know funny, but their feature directorial debut was the ill-conceived Vacation reboot, so I was wary of this one. They do a great job, though, as I found myself laughing a lot.
A lot of the laughs generated are due to the great cast Daley and Goldstein have assembled. Bateman and McAdams are great leads with nice chemistry. Bateman always nails the beleaguered everyman, while I’d watch McAdams read the phone book. She has done some comedy throughout her career—Mean Girls and Wedding Crashers being the biggest ones—but she doesn’t do a ton and Game Night shows that she should do more. Plemons is hilarious as the creepy neighbor who feels left out of the game night revelry. He’s great in pretty much everything he’s in and he doesn’t disappoint here. Lamorene Morris and Kylie Bunbury are very funny as married high school sweethearts Kevin and Michelle. They have really good chemistry that translates into easy laughs when Kevin finds out something shocking about the woman he thought he knew everything about. Billy Magnussen is also funny as Ryan, the dense Lothario who goes through girlfriends like tissues. To the titular game night, he brings Sarah (Sharon Horgan), a brainy co-worker that is a nice contrast to his stupidity. Finally, Kyle Chandler delivers a good performance as Brooks, but I think he does a much better job in dramatic work. At times he felt a little out of place for me.
Overall, Game Night was surprisingly funny. It had a good premise and a great cast to execute it. A real fun time. Check it out.