Movie Review: Stylish ‘Game Night’ Plenty of Fun
A night of Charades and Jenga with a small group of friend turns into David Fincher’s The Game in Game Night, a slight but winning new comedy aided greatly by a talented cast and a heavy dose of style courtesy directors John Francis Daley and Jonathan Goldstein. They previously made the National Lampoon’s Vacation remake, but let’s not hold that against them.
This time around, they have a nifty high-concept script to work with from screenwriter Mark Perez: when a role-playing mystery game is hijacked by some real-life kidnappers, the players only slowly realize that they’re in some actual trouble.
Jason Bateman and Rachel McAdams are Max and Annie, a couple of pub quiz hotshots currently trying to conceive whose game night success - and chances of conception - take a dive with the arrival of Max’s competitive hotshot brother Brooks (Kyle Chandler).
But when Brooks gets dragged away during a murder mystery type game at his luxury pad, it doesn’t take (too) long before Max, Annie, and their four friends realize they’re not playing a game, and they need to take action to save him for real.
Bateman can turn out this kind of thing in his sleep - he’s been the go-to choice for sardonic comic lead ever since Arrested Development - but it’s nice to see McAdams go goofball: her likable ditz makes gives the actress a chance to have some real fun here.
A terrific supporting cast is filled with familiar faces who get a chance to shine: along with Chandler there’s Lamorne Morris (New Girl) and Kylie Bunbury as a pair of high school sweethearts going through their own personal mystery, Billy Magnussen as an airhead who always loses, and Sharon Horgan as his current date, chosen because she’s British and therefore smart.
And stealing the show, Jesse Plemons is a creepy next-door neighbor and police officer who was a onetime game night participant with his ex-wife - and now carefully keeps an eye on his neighbors for another chance to participate. Jeffrey Wright, Michael C. Hall, and Danny Huston also show up in brief cameos.
Game Night runs on mild amusement throughout: a little dry, a little dark, never overly broad or raunchy. It also achieves the kind of balance needed to straddle the comedy and drama elements.
But what really makes this fun is the first-rate production, which includes a number of memorable setpieces and fluid action choreography: there’s even a showstopper, an extended single-take sequence involving a game of catch with a priceless faberge egg.
Best of all: a retro ‘80s horror movie synth score by Cliff Martinez (Drive) that really amps up the fun factor.
While Game Night may not be the funniest comedy to hit cinemas in recent years, you’re not rolling the dice with this one: it’s a winner.