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Game Night Movie Review

Game Night (2018) movie poster Game Night

Theatrical Release: February 23, 2018 / Running Time: 93 Minutes / Rating: R

Directors: John Francis Daley, Jonathan Goldstein / Writer: Mark Perez

Cast: Jason Bateman (Max Davis), Rachel McAdams (Annie Davis), Kyle Chandler (Brooks Davis), Sharon Horgan (Sarah), Billy Magnussen (Ryan), Lamorne Morris (Kevin), Kylie Bunbury (Michelle), Jesse Plemons (Gary), Michael C. Hall (The Bulgarian), Danny Huston (Donald Anderton), Chelsea Peretti (Glenda), Camille Chen (Dr. Chin), Zerrick Deion Williams (Val), Joshua Mikel (Colin), R.F. Daley (Tats), John Francis Daley (Carter)


The creative duo of John Francis Daley and Jonathan Goldstein has had ups and downs this decade. Their first collaboration as screenwriters, 2011's Horrible Bosses, was a summer hit whose favor with critics and the public opened some doors. Their follow-up, the 2013 magician comedy flop The Incredible Burt Wonderstone, wasn't enough to close those doors.
After contributing a story to the more coolly received Horrible Bosses 2 and to the screenplay of Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs 2, Daley and Goldstein made their feature directing debut on 2015's Vacation. That sequel, certainly conceived to extend the most successful National Lampoon franchise, was slammed by critics and only a moderate success commercially. Redemption came last summer when they were credited with story and as two of the six screenwriters of the supremely entertaining Spider-Man: Homecoming.

The achievements of Homecoming should lead to other big tentpoles, but before that, Daley and Goldstein return to directing on Game Night, an R-rated comedy which they didn't write but is nonetheless reminiscent of their name-making start, Horrible Bosses. After an off year and a slow fade from ubiquity, Jason Bateman returns to major studio leading man duties as Max Davis, a man who in the film's opening meets his wife Annie (Rachel McAdams) over bar trivia.

The R-rated comedy "Game Night" stars Rachel McAdams and Jason Bateman as a married couple who gets involved in real danger they mistake for an interactive murder mystery.

Their years together do nothing to diminish the cute, competitive nature of the game-loving couple. But now they're trying to have children and struggling, something that is chalked up to Max's sibling rivalry. His wealthy, good-looking brother Brooks (Kyle Chandler, picking up a rare comedy credit) is about to drop by and apparently that is enough to affect the motility of Max's sperm.

As you can surmise from the title, Max and Annie's fertility problems are more of a backburner subplot here. The primary narrative involves a game night that Brooks is hosting at the mansion he has rented while he's in town. One-upping his brother per tradition, he has sprung for an interactive murder mystery experience that involves a staged abduction and local actors. But Brooks is the one abducted and it isn't the stagey setup anticipated. He's been taking by a couple of real violent criminals. Max and Annie take chase, leading to a dive bar where their misreading of the situation gives them confidence that their complete lack of criminal experience should not.

It's a funny concept that recalls other films from Tropic Thunder to The Man Who Knew Too Little. Lone credited scribe Mark Perez, bizarrely picking up his first theatrical credit since 2006's likable college comedy Accepted, mines the concept for consistent laughs. When we're not with Max and Annie quoting Pulp Fiction and facing far more danger than they realize, we're spending time with their friends, who take alternate routes to try to win the game. Longtime couple Kevin and Michelle (Lamorne Morris and Kylie Bunbury) bicker at the discovery that she slept with a celebrity while they were on a break. More amusing most of the time is Ryan (Billy Magnussen), an airhead with a taste for vapid women who is outmatched by a sharp-witted Brit (Sharon Horgan) who might or might not be his date for the evening.

Jesse Plemons scores some of the film's biggest laughs as Gary, the divorced next door neighbor whom the Davises choose not to invite to their game night.

Some of the film's best moments are supplied by Jesse Plemons (Gary),
as the overtly pained cop next door who makes for uncomfortable mailbox runs and elaborate efforts to hide game night rather than extend another invitation his way.

There are twists, several of which stretch plausibility and extend the movie slightly beyond a comfortable length. But Game Night isn't terribly concerned with realism. It just wants to have a good time and make you laugh and it does that more often than not, even when it's hitting familiar beats. We've seen this type of movie before in things like Date Night and Rough Night. Buoyed by a good nature and appealing cast, this one is more enjoyable than those, though it will still generate more like than love.

Related Reviews:
From the Directors: Vacation | From the Writer: Herbie: Fully Loaded
Horrible Bosses Spider-Man: Homecoming
Date Night Rough Night Adventures in Babysitting The Game Keanu Tropic Thunder Galaxy Quest
Jason Bateman: Office Christmas Party Identity Thief Zootopia Extract The Switch
Rachel McAdams: Doctor Strange The Vow Spotlight | Kyle Chandler: The Wolf of Wall Street Manchester by the Sea Carol
Now in Theaters: Black Panther The 15:17 to Paris Red Sparrow

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Reviewed February 27, 2018.

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