Max (Jason Bateman) and Annie (Rachel McAdams) have had a competitive spirit since they started dating. There isn’t a trivia, tabletop or board game they didn’t like and beating them is often a foregone conclusion. Now married, Max and Annie still have the occasional game night with friends Ryan (Billy Magnussen), Kevin (Lamorne Morris) and Michelle (Kylie Bunbury). Max and Annie’s neighbor Gary (Jesse Plemons), a local cop who used to attend the game nights but, after his recent divorce, Gary isn’t handling the single life very well and should be avoided like the flu. After the participants of this week’s game night arrive, including Ryan’s latest date Sarah (Sharon Horgan) and Max’s obnoxiously wealthy brother Brooks (Kyle Chandler), the group is invited to game night at Brooks’ house next week. A game that Brooks promises will be ‘unlike any other game night they’ve ever played’.
That game is a murder mystery.
Like an IRL game of ‘Clue’, Brooks gets abducted by masked men and the party has to follow clues to find him. First team to find Brooks wins. However, there was a wrinkle that not even Brooks could foresee; the abduction was real and Brooks isn’t the man he claims to be.
Game Night is an ‘R’ rated comedy starring Jason Bateman. Depending on your view of his prior works such as Horrible Bosses, Office Christmas Party or Identity Thief, Game Night could be either another instant classic from Bateman or more of the same song and dance. As the leading male in the movie, Bateman isn’t exactly reinventing the wheel as a mild mannered suburbanite. Honestly, if someone said that Bateman’s character from Game Night was the same character in Horrible Bosses just outside of work; I’d believe it. It’s not a bad thing, it’s just more of the same thing. Luckily, Bateman doesn’t have to do all of the comedic heavy lifting.
Surprisingly, Game Night is pretty well written. Each character has plenty of opportunities for well timed zingers and non-sequiturs. My biggest surprise of the film was the wonderfully creepy Jesse Plemons as Gary Kingsbury. Gary’s about as effective as catching water in a colander, as it relates to the aftermath of his divorce; leaving him a withering husk of a person. His creepiness led to some very real jump scares in the audience. There’s something unnerving about standing in the driveway, robotically petting your dog, well after the sun has set. Gary is one of the few big, consistent uncomfortable laugh/groans throughout the film.
Though it has its moments, Game Night bills itself as a ‘R’ rated comedy that has to been seen to believed. Unfortunately, this isn’t the case. The film never comes remotely close to pushing the comedic envelope. I assume the loftiest expectations of the film would have it do so; however, Game Night isn’t a throwaway either. Depending on how much you like the cast, Game Night should serve its purpose as a comedy. If you dull your expectations a bit, you’ll make it out of the theater, satisfied, but not filled.
Rated: R @ 100 minutes.
NOTE: DO stay through the credits’ end for a stinger.