UK Release Date: 2nd March 2018
Runtime: 100 minutes
Director: Jonathan Goldstein, John Francis Daley
Writer: Mark Perez
Starring: Jason Bateman, Rachel McAdams, Kyle Chandler, Billy Magnussen, Sharon Horgan, Lamorne Morris, Kylie Bunbury, Jesse Plemons
Synopsis: A super-competitive couple become embroiled in a real kidnap conspiracy when a wealthy, extravagant family member tries to upstage them and organise the ultimate game night.
We’re all a little bit competitive. We all like to win and we’ve all got a little bit over-excited over a couple of pints and a packet of peanuts when we do really well in round one of a pub quiz. However, in comedy film Game Night, it’s a pub quiz that manages to bond together a couple. It’s competition that drives the plot of the movie and it’s competition that defines their characters. Thankfully, in Jason Bateman and Rachel McAdams, the film has two leads capable of sustaining the silliness of that central concept – and the caper narrative attached to it.
That caper kicks off when Brooks (Kyle Chandler) – brother of Bateman’s Max – turns up to crash the weekly game night that Max and Annie (McAdams) hold at their home with friends. Brooks has booked a special game experience, in which one of the party will be victim to a staged kidnapping, with the others tasked with following clues to track them down. When Brooks is violently dragged from the house, everyone assumes the game is going ahead as planned, but it soon transpires that there may be more to this than meets the eye.
It’s a breath-takingly silly comedy premise and Game Night does suffer from having rather a lot to get through in its relatively brief running time. However, the movie has a real sense of kinetic energy to it that keeps the action moving as quickly as the laughs, with directing duo Jonathan Goldstein and John Francis Daley showcasing a flair for set pieces that bodes well for their future role at the helm of Flashpoint for DC. One scene – a single-take action sequence involving a Fabergé Egg – is a standout moment of cinematic invention in the midst of the comedy.
The chemistry between Bateman and McAdams, meanwhile, is enough to paper over any narrative cracks. They are entirely believable as a slightly weird couple who bond over Tinky Winky, play Dance Dance Revolution at their wedding and speak entirely in Pac-Man metaphors. Their comic relationship crackles and fizzles as they trade barbs and there’s plenty of comedy from the supporting cast too, most notably from Jesse Plemons as the exceptionally creepy police officer next door. The large ensemble inevitably has some casualties, though, with the very talented Sharon Horgan largely pushed to the sidelines.
Game Night devolves into a somewhat nonsensical and overwrought third act, but it delivers a steady and constant stream of laughter throughout the story. There are some solid running gags, from the suggestion that one character had a celebrity affair to a series of strangely resilient glass tables. It’s a ramshackle and sprawling piece of work with plenty of rough edges, but it delivers on the comedy front – and that’s all this particular game ever needed to achieve.
Pop or Poop?
There’s a silliness and a level of zany, screwball madness to Game Night that almost shouldn’t work. However, despite that, a tight script and some sure-footed direction is enough to push the story over the line. Bateman and McAdams are dynamite as a couple driven by their desire to win and there’s plenty of momentum here on the quip front, in the midst of a world in which Hollywood comedy is often unfocused, messy and desperately unfunny.
Do you agree with my review? Let me know in the comments section.