Surprise is always important in comedy, and “Game Night” surprised me as a good comedy film. Because I saw its trailer a few months ago, I had a pretty good idea on where its story was going, but then it caught me off guard several times as inducing big chuckles from me, so I recommend you not to read my review further if you want to be entertained as much as possible.
For folks who want to know more about the film for deciding whether it is worthwhile to watch, I will now describe how Max (Jason Bateman) and Annie (Rachel McAdams) meet each other during its opening scene. When they happen to be playing against each other at a bar during your average game night, something soon comes to click between them, and it does not take long for them to start a romantic relationship and then get married later.
When they are going to have another game night with their friends at their cozy suburban house several years later, things look fine as before, but there are a few problems to bother them. There is a young divorced police officer who lives alone right next to their house, and this guy is a little too eager to be invited to Max and Annie’s game night while not noticing at all that they do not want to invite him for understandable reasons. For not hurting this guy’s feeling, Max and Annie have to hide their evening plan as much as they can, and we later get a small funny moment as their invited friends clumsily slip into their house one by one.
And there is Brooks (Kyle Chandler), Max’s older brother who has always been better and more successful than him since their childhood. Always feeling inferior to his older brother more than he admits, Max is not so pleased about Brooks coming to the meeting, and Brooks confirms his brother’s worst fear as making Max embarrassed and humiliated in front of Annie and others right from when he arrives with a fancy sports car.
While this game night is about to end, Brooks suggests that they should have another game night at a nearby house rented by him, and he assures to others that they will have more fun and excitement there. Although he is understandably not very enthusiastic about this, Max goes along with others to that house a few days later, and he surely feels lousy again as they are impressed a lot by how big and fancy Brooks’ rented house looks.
Shortly after Brooks tells his guests about what kind of game they going to play this evening, somebody comes into the house. As the person in question sets the situation, Brooks’ guests come to have some expectation for fun and excitement, but then another thing suddenly happens right in front of their eyes, and the situation becomes far more violent and aggressive than expected.
Now I should be more careful about describing the plot for not spoiling your entertainment, but I guess I can tell you that Brooks’ guests soon find themselves thrown into a disorienting situation which may be a lot more real and serious than expected. It looks like Brooks dealt with some dangerous criminal, and that means Brooks’ guests must find and rescue him before it is too late.
As Max, Annie, and other characters bounce from one spot to another during their very eventful night, the screenplay by Mark Perez steadily accumulates its comic momentum through a number of inspired moments. There is a hysterically messy moment involved with a dog belonging to that police officer, and then there comes an absurd but skillful sequence unfolded inside a big mansion, and we are also served with an amusing gag associated with glass table. While constantly making us aware of what may be at stake for its main characters, directors John Francis Daley and Jonathan Goldstein also maintain well a wry sense of fun throughout the film, and we willingly come to overlook its several implausible moments such as the climactic scene on a bridge.
The cast members of the movie are effective in their respective roles. As shown from acclaimed TV sitcom “Arrested Development”, Jason Bateman can be quite funny with his everyman persona, and he is especially wonderful when Max tries to hide his envy and annoyance caused by Brooks during several earlier scenes. Rachel McAdams, who already showed us how hilarious she can be in “Mean Girls” (2004) and “Morning Glory” (2010), is impeccable in her comic timing with Batemen on the screen, and they are particularly good during one cringe-inducing moment involved with a gunshot wound.
In case of the supporting performers around Bateman and McAdams, they have each own moments to generate more laughs for us. While Kyle Chandler is suitably obnoxious, Jesse Plemons shows another side of his talent through his oddball character, Lamorne Morris and Kylie Bunbury are also solid as another couple in the story. Although he is mostly required to do or say dumb things, Billy Magnussen acquits himself well, and Sharon Horgan complements him as his no-nonsense counterpart.
Although it does not go up to the level of sheer deviousness shown in David Fincher’s “The Game” (1997), “Game Night” is still a smart, funny, and entertaining comedy film, and I enjoyed its numerous humorous elements while appreciating how they are handled deftly enough to earn laughs from its audiences. I always expect to be not only amused but also surprised whenever I watch a comedy movie, and I can assure you that the movie did its job pretty well.