Sometimes a comedy can take you by surprise. I was intrigued by the high concept behind the Game Night, but I wasn’t entirely sold on the film because of my trepidation concerning the directing duo of John Francis Daley and Jonathan Goldstein. While I’ve liked the duo’s screenwriting work on Horrible Bosses and Spider-Man: Homecoming, I found their Vacation reboot to be one of the more painful comedies to sit through in recent memory. It turns out the directing duo have really found their rhythm with Game Night, which makes the most of its concept and consistently delivers plenty of big laughs thanks to the dedicated performances of its ensemble cast.
Max (Jason Bateman) and Annie (Rachel McAdams) are a highly competitive couple. They met at a bar trivia night and have since found themselves happily married despite their inability to have a child. Max has lived his life in the shadow of his highly successful older brother Brooks (Kyle Chandler), who just happens to be travelling into town ahead of their weekly game night. Their typical group of friends assemble for an evening of drinking and gaming. There’s the thick-headed and handsome Ryan (Billy Magnussen) who brings a different young woman every week; there’s also the married couple Kevin (Lamorne Morris) and Michelle (Kylie Bunbury), middle school sweethearts that are happily married. On the outside, though, is the awkward and recently divorced police officer Gary (Jesse Plemons). At the conclusion of the evening, Brooks demands that he hosts next week’s game night.
The next week and everyone gathers at Brooks’ lavish home, this time Ryan has brought his co-worker Sarah (Sharon Horgan) as his date, even though she’s slightly older than the typical youthful bimbos he brings each week. The game that they’re playing involves a staged kidnapping of a single guest and the piecing together of clues to solve the mystery. The winner will receive the keys to Brooks’ classic sports car. However, before the game can begin in earnest, masked bandits bust into the home and kidnap Brooks for real, leaving the contestants to unwittingly engage in evening of real crime solving.
There’s a level of skill on display in every facet of Game Night’s comedy of errors. The script by Mark Perez crackles with hilarious situations accentuated by snappy dialogue. John Francis Daley and Jonathan Goldstein bring a crisp visual style to the comedic hijinks, resulting in the rare modern comedy that doesn’t suffer from choppy editing due to an over reliance on improvisation. Finally, the cast brings such conviction to each of their characters that they’re able to bring them each to life without dwelling excessively on their backstory. The culmination of all these aspects means that Game Night is the kind of comedy that consistently delivers the laughs with astonishing consistency, and never relying on a particular type of gag. Sure, a couple of the jokes fall flat here and there, but there are never any extended stretches of the film that devoid of humor.
It’s amazing just how well the ensemble cast brings Game Night to such life. Jason Bateman does his normal shtick, so there aren’t many surprises there but he is his reliable self. Relative newcomers Lamoren Morris and Kylie Bunbury get their moment to shine when some old secrets rise to the surface. Billy Magnussen excels as playing a complete dolt and Sharon Horgan’s interactions with her thick-headed date only amplify the hilarity. As great as everyone is, there are two MVPs in the cast of Game Night: Rachel McAdams and Jesse Plemons. McAdams plays Annie as someone whose competitive nature takes over, getting wrapped up in the moment so much that it takes her a while to realize the damage she’s just witnessed. Plemons, on the other hand, brings a detached loneliness to his divorced police officer. His line delivery is exaggerated and unsettling, yielding insanely effective comedic returns.
Game Night stands out as one of the first raucous comedies of 2018. It’s worth a roll of the dice to see the madcap hilarity first hand. All my apprehensions about the film have flown out the window. The thoroughly realized nature of Game Night has me incredibly excited to see what they do when given the reins of The Flash with Flashpoint. Game Night might run about ten minutes to long thanks to an extra little twist at the end, but even as it needlessly overextends itself there are still plenty of solid gags that keep the laughs coming. There’s a little tease at the end that suggests a sequel may be in the works and I certainly hope that doesn’t come to pass – they rolled a Yahtzee the first time around.
- Overall Score
Consistently hilarious, Game Night makes the most of its concept thanks to a tight script, strong direction, and a stellar ensemble cast with Rachel McAdams and Jesse Plemons stealing the show.