STARS: Jason Bateman, Rachel McAdams, Kyle Chandler, Jesse Plemons
DIRECTOR: John Francis Daley, Jonathon M. Goldstein
GENRE: Dark Comedy/ Mystery/ Suspense
It ain't over till it's over. In cinematic terms, that phrase was never more appropriate than to Game Night!
Max and Annie (Jason Bateman, Rachel McAdams) are the nucleus of a group of friends who love their game nights! Charades, Pictionary, Jenga--you name it--they play like their lives depend on it. Ironically, that's just what develops when Max's more successful older brother, Brooks (Kyle Chandler) shows up and invites them to play at his house. It's a murder mystery party--great fun, eh? But it becomes all too real when a group of violent thugs invades the premises and kidnaps Brooks. All part of the game, right? The couples proceed on that assumption, as they begin a frantic search to find him. Hey, there's a classic Corvette Stingray that goes to the winners! But they will run into some truly scary hombres along the way, and suddenly it's confusing as to what may be real and what may be part of the game.
Joining Max and Annie on the adventure are Ryan and Sarah (Billy Magnussen, Sharon Horgan) and Kevin and Michelle (Lamorne Morris, Kylie Bunbury). Each couple has its own quirky relationship issues that play out against the action/mystery/suspense backdrop. The pacing of the plot sometimes takes a back seat to the personal relationship gags, but the little detours are comically rewarding and well worth it. Don't worry, there's plenty of wild and crazy action to come...in spades!
Inventiveness abounds, as in the rugby metaphor where a priceless Faberge egg is being tossed about like a hot potato...everything's a game...life is a game!
Stealing the show is Max and Annie's deadpan somber policeman neighbor, Gary (Jesse Plemons). Gary makes Keely Smith look like the life of the party (ya gotta be pretty old to remember her routine with Louis Prima--uh, I'm only familiar with it through YouTube videos!) Needless to say, Gary is a buzz kill, and the running gag is that he wants to join the couples on their game nights, with Max and Annie using every comically transparent deception to throw him off the scent and convince him there's "nothing to see here."
Game Night, brilliantly conceived and executed, is the wildest and goofiest ride you're going to take all year, and it'll keep you guessing right up to the final moment. It truly is the most fun you can have with your clothes on!
(Or your clothes off, as far as I'm concerned.) Game Night is a winner all around. If you don't see any other film this month, or year, or in your lifetime, go see this one! It's a laugh-out-loud, movie trivia buff's orgy of a movie. If you've seen the trailer, or read Tim's review, you already know what you're getting into. What you don't know is how engrossing it is. The audience where I was—disappointed that they couldn't get into the theater playing Black Panther—forgot feeling miffed the minute Game Night started. Like me, they were hooked!
If any of you have see Jason Bateman in the Netflix original Ozark, you already know what a good actor he is. And if you seen Kyle Chandler in the Netflix original Bloodline, you know what a good/bad guy he can turn into. A word I seldom use but feel compelled to in describing this script, skillfully penned by Mark Perez, would be "seamless." Not a false moment slinks by. And each pair of game-players has an individual story that'll entice you even further. But be forewarned: you'd better suspend your disbelief at the door!
As a flaw-finding film critic, I'm at a loss to point out anything in Game Night that I didn't enjoy. And if you, like the rest of us, are currently experiencing bad weather? (It's cold as a witch's you-know-what here in Del Mar!) This movie will make you forget your woes entirely. It's Entertainment Personified!