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Friends who meet for game nights find themselves solving a murder mystery in this comedy from the directors of the hilarious Vacation, starring Jason Bateman and Rachel McAdams.
Max and Annie's weekly couples' game night gets kicked up a notch when Max’s charismatic brother, Brooks (Kyle Chandler, Manchester by the Sea), arranges a murder mystery party, complete with fake thugs and faux federal agents. So when Brooks gets kidnapped, it’s all part of the game… right? But as the six uber-competitive gamers set out to solve the case and win, they discover that neither this “game” — nor Brooks — are what they seem to be. Over the course of one chaotic night, the friends find themselves increasingly in over their heads as each twist leads to another unexpected turn.
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Rating: R16 Violence, sexual references & offensive language
Game Night shares its directors with the execrable Vacation, which should trigger alarm bells for discerning viewers. However the same duo worked on the script for Spiderman: Homecoming, which was pretty great, and co-director John Francis Daley gets a lifetime pass just for being in Freaks and Geeks.
All this is by way of saying that Game Night is much better than you might expect. An attempt to marry a crime thriller with an ensemble comedy, it succeeds mainly due to a pleasantly convoluted script by Mark Perez.
There are the expected scenes of actors riffing all over each that populate most modern comedies, but also hints at a bigger budget and attention to aesthetics like nifty camera work, tilt-shift photography, and some decent action set pieces.
Jason Bateman has probably done enough of these man-child roles at this point (it’s unsettlingly weird watching his character wonder whether he’s ready to have a kid at age forty-nine), but he’s reliably amusing. So is Rachel McAdams (seemingly channeling Rose Byrne in Bad Neighbours), and there are some nice surprises in the supporting cast like Sharon Horgan from TV’s Catastrophe, and Jesse Plemons being funny enough to steal the whole movie.
Your mileage may vary when it comes to the various bits of comic business in Game Night, but a lot of seemingly-improvised non-sequiturs reveal themselves to be carefully planned setups for later gags, which is a nice change.
The suspension of disbelief needed to sell the dramatic parts of the story is undermined somewhat when characters react in a blasé fashion to, for example, being shot. But it’s that cheerful detachment from reality that makes the film such a easy watch.
Culminating in an end credits sequence that plays like Fincher in a particularly goofy mood, Game Night isn’t great, but it’s surprisingly good.
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