Directed by: John Francis Daley & Jonathan Goldstein
Written by: Mark Perez
Produced by: John Davis, Jason Bateman, John Fox and James Garavente
Starring: Jason Bateman, Rachel McAdams, Billy Magnussen, Sharon Horgan, Lamorne Morris, Kylie Bunbury, Jesse Plemons, Danny Huston, Chelsea Peretti, with Michael C. Hall and Kyle Chandler.
What makes Jason Bateman such a good comedian is not what he does but the ridiculous that happens to him and how he takes it on the chin because what else is he supposed to do? He’s relatable and a crack-up with no exception here as Max teamed up with his wife Annie (Rachel McAdams): it’s all about winning the game for this couple.
Except when it comes to playing against their neighbour Gary (Jesse Plemons): they were friends with his recently divorced wife, not creepy Gary.
Obsessed, the team/couple host a weekly game night with friends each with their unique relationship issues (bar Gary: not that he doesn’t have issues but because he’s not invited), each unaware that when Max’s brother Brooks (Kyle Chandler) decides to host a Murder Mystery party, it’s not a game but a real kidnapping.
Brooks isn’t just the competitive and ‘most likely to succeed’ brother, he’s also a bad boy.
There’s always a feeling of a formula at play with these heart-felt, comedy, throw-a-bit-of-action-in-the-mix, movies. Here, we have sibling rivalry, couple issues, the bond of friendship; conflicts overcome by the common goal of winning the game and saving the brother.
Directors John Francis Daley & Jonathan Goldstein have teamed up before, Game Night being their second film as co-directors, following the comedy, Vacation (2015). And like Vacation, there are some genuinely funny moments.
Gary-the-creepy-neighbour is a highlight and point of difference with his death stare and continued patting of his white fluffy dog reminiscent of the villain, Dr Claw petting his white fluffy cat in Inspector Gadget.
It’s the extra effort and detail that tickles.
And Max being the normal guy in such silly situations grounds the story while also making the film funnier.
Rachel McAdams can be hit and miss for me. She plays such a wide variety of roles, from Spotlight to Dr Strange to True Detective 2 – an impressive performance of a dark and tortured cop – to her role here, as the innocent, game-obsessed suburban wife; her character not the funniest but adding the cutesy aspect, provoking the required, Aww, response.
So, there’s attention to detail from a clever script with lines like, ‘You got the knife right in the bullet hole’ (ha, ha, cracks me up), a techno 80s-style synthesiser soundtrack to combine that action/comic flavour with a bit of added romance.