While it’s not the laugh-riot a few of the trailers lead us to believe, the new comedy Game Night still delivers a requisite amount of worthy laughs.
Look, I’ll go see anything Jason Bateman does, especially if it’s a comedy. He just has to stand there, cock his head to the side and give that little wink, and I’m laughing. And when you pair him with an actress who can keep up with him (i.e. Jennifer Aniston), then it’s even better. Rachel McAdams fills those shoes quite nicely, and it’s great to see her doing some comedy again (more on her in a bit).
In Game Night, they play Max and Annie, two crazy kids who meet at a bar’s trivia night and realize they are made for each other because they both have hardcore competitive spirits. Jump ahead, they are now happily married and are trying to have a baby, but it looks like Max isn’t delivering the, uh, goods. Annie thinks it’s because Max is always competing with his brother, Brooks (Kyle Chandler), a successful entrepreneur, and now that Brooks is coming to town for a visit, Max is stressing. He doesn’t quite see it that way, but nonetheless, they decide to go ahead with their planned game night with Brooks.
Max and Annie’s weekly game night participants consist of married couple Michelle (Kylie Bunbury) and Kevin (Lamorne Morris) and single friend Ryan (Billy Magnussen), who always brings some bimbo who contributes nothing. Max and Annie used to invite their next-door neighbors, but they have since divorced, leaving only the very strange Gary (Jesse Plemons), who still wants to participate but Max and Annie usually find some way to brush him off.
When Brooks shows up, he dominates the game night, and everyone loves him, of course. Then he sets a challenge that he’ll host game night the next week, and he’ll take it to the next level. And next level he does. What’s supposed to start out as a “kidnapping” suddenly gets very real. All manner of madcap craziness and caper fun ensues as the couples and Ryan, who has finally brought a smart date, Sarah (Sharon Horgan), try to find Brooks, who truly has been kidnapped. Oh yeah, and don’t forget Gary.
The action tends to get a tad too convoluted at times, with everyone running around with their own set of unnecessary subplots and agendas, but Bateman and McAdams are a great comic duo. Bateman plays more of the straight guy in this, while McAdams gets to be the zany one. She’s done so many serious movies of late that one forgets she started her career in comedies like The Hot Chick and Mean Girls. Comedy suits her, and perhaps she and Bateman will do more together.
As for the other cast members, Morris, Bunbury, Magnussen, and Horgan individually find some moments to comically shine, but not a whole lot, while Chandler doesn’t get much of anything to do. There are also some pretty top-notch cameos from Jeffrey Wright, Chelsea Peretti and Michael C. Hall.
The real standout is Plemons. He steals every single scene he is in by playing Gary as deadly serious as possible. Gary is weird, has an unhealthy relationship with his dog, is a bit of a stalker but is also a good cop and methodical. When he wants to play the game, he goes all out. Plemons has actually been wowing me for some time now, particularly in the second season of Fargo and his chilling turn in Breaking Bad.
Directors John Francis Daley and Jonathan Goldstein (who helmed a revamped version of Vacation) do some interesting things in the direction, such as setting up outside establishing shots as if they are the pieces on the Life game board, but overall, the film keeps to a pretty standard comedic formula. Let the hilarious cast run around like maniacs during one long evening, as the stakes grow higher, culminating in a somewhat unrealistic and ridiculous conclusion. Game Night is all in good fun.