In the sea of March-released uninteresting movies, Game Night, a comedy-turned-crime-thriller, stands out. It is raucous and playful, without propelling into the typical territory of a Jason Bateman comedy– weary jokes that push well beyond the edge into the area of ‘wildly offensive’. Screenwriter Mark Perez, known for a handful of B-comedies, pairs up with the now infamous duo John Francs Daley and Jonathan Goldstein, who wrote Horrible Bosses (2011), to create Game Night, following the style of their previous film. Both Horrible Bosses and Game Night begin with a comical yet tame tone, only to quickly descend into a chaos of situations that spring us into a completely new world which eagerly embraces the absurd.
The film stars Jason Bateman and Rachel McAdams are Max and Annie, a passionate couple whose spark is sourced in a mutual love for games, of any type. The two meet in a typical Hollywood ‘meet-cute’ when both competitively attempt to win during a laid-back pub quiz. After they marry, they begin a tradition of legendary game nights with friends, playing anything from Scrabble to staging elaborate nerf gun battles. A slick sequence pans over what looks like a series of plastic house-pieces from The Game of Life, aligned in a cul-de-sac, then slowly morphs an aerial shot of Max and Annie’s actual house, a typicality of suburban America. The sequence not only establishes the mundanity of the primary couple’s lives, but cleverly foreshadows the forthcoming action – so improbable that reality itself morphs into a game.
Max and Annie always invite their regular group of quirky friends to their game night: the stereotypically dimwitted Ryan (Billy Magnussen) who invites Sarah (Sharon Horgan) as his date, a beautiful and sharp co-worker, plus Kevin (Lamorne Morris) and Michelle (Kylie Bunbury). During the titular game night, Max’s handsome and more successful older brother Brooks (Max Chandler) shows up to insist everyone come for a murder-mystery type game night at his mansion rental house. What ensues is a fracas that is both hilarious and compelling: Brooks is kidnaped and everyone must embark on a quest to track him down.
Game Night perfectly fuses the action-thriller and comedy genres, providing Baby Driver-esque car chases and an almost cartoonish adult humor. The script seems well curated; it has the air of something that was drafted and perfected to land the humor in a way that is never lazy, but instead perfectly crafted. Each character has time to develop and breathe their way into their own particular comedic style. Game Night has complete control over the jokes, the characters, and the action, intricately weaving each element together to create a movie that is refreshingly entertaining.
Film reviewed at Cineworld, Edinburgh.
Image: Courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures