Directed by John Francis Daley and Jonathan Goldstein
Written by Mark Perez
Starring Jason Bateman, Rachel McAdams, Billy Magnussen, Sharon Horgan, Kylie Bunbury, Jesse Plemons, Michael C. Hall, Kyle Chandler
Growing up in a suburb of Milwaukee, we knew our neighbors; had block parties with them. Today, we live in an age where we feel more secure when we lock our doors. We don’t commiserate with our neighbors, fearing the worst in someone. I might be on a slippery slope in generalizing the feelings of communities throughout the world, but one look at the news or a post on social media, confirms my suspicions.
Going into the new comedy “Game Night” without knowing much about the film or its story is the best way to appreciate it. And, I am glad that I knew nothing, because it allowed me to enjoy the humor so much more.
Mr. Perez’s script is simple, yet elegant. The affable Jason Bateman plays Max. He is married to Annie, played by Rachel McAdams. They organize weekly game nights with friends with a focus on board games. When Brooks (Kyle Chandler), Max’s brother shows up, he flips the script on the neighborhood game night full of hilarious hijinks.
The secret to the film by Mr. Daley and Mr. Goldstein is that they use confusion and suspicion to their greatest advantage. It helps when you have a brilliant ensemble to execute on the confusion. Mr. Bateman has only one method of acting, but it works so perfectly here. Ms. McAdams is very much the spunky one in their relationship, but Mr. Bateman just feeds off of that energy. Mr. Chandler is amusing as he keeps us guessing throughout the night. As Ryan, Billy Magnussen is an absolute hoot. In a way, he reminded me of Don Knotts, as he is oblivious to his surroundings, yet happens on everything by pure chance. Sarah, his love interest plays her role in a deadpan style, which compliments Ryan’s ineptness. As Kevin and Michelle (Lamorne Morris and Kylie Bunbury, respectively), they steal the show as they argue throughout the night over a past transgression. Kevin won’t let go of it, which makes their argument funnier.
The real MVP of the film is Jesse Plemons as Gary, Max and Annie’s next door neighbor, who also happens to be a cop. His Joe Friday-esque take on the role is so perfect as he struggles to fit in. He is as loveable as his dog, but just as lost.
There are times when the film feels a bit over the top. Yet, it is the reason why we go to the movies: to escape from our reality. And that is something that this story gets right in spades. Messrs. Daley and Goldstein went to great lengths to create that balance, and they succeed largely due to the ensemble. But, they also make you feel as if you were a part of the game as our characters try to unravel the mystery confronting them. Part “It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, World,” part “Clue,” and all fun, “Game Night” will entertain and delight.
3 out of 4 stars