Comedy thriller delivers with inconsequential game night humor
As unmemorable as a game of checkers, as insubstantial as party charades, but as fun as a round of drunken Scattergories. Game Night, a new comedy thriller from the people behind Horrible Bosses and Vacation, will barely stay in your brain long enough for you to get to the car, but nevertheless, it’s good, stupid fun.
Jason Bateman and Rachel McAdams play Max and Annie, a thoroughly cute yet fiercely competitive married couple. To exercise their love of competition (well, in truth, winning), the two have a standing weekly date with two other thoroughly cute couples for game night. Into this benign situation comes Max’s older brother, Brooks (Kyle Chandler), who has succeeded in the game of life to a degree that fosters sibling resentment in Max.
Brooks co-opts game night with a wild role-playing kidnapping adventure that quickly if predictably spins out of control. Add a priceless Faberge egg, a mobster called the Bulgarian, and a creepy cop as a next-door neighbor, and we have ourselves a raucous comedy.
Bateman and McAdams have just the right light touch for this kind of borderline comedy. They manage the ruder, darker elements with a grace that prevents the movie from becoming unredeemable (as The Hangover often did). Chandler approaches his caricature of a role with gusto and conviction. But the highlight of the cast is Jesse Plemons as the incredibly sinister-sad neighbor Gary. Recently divorced and desperate, excluded from the board-game fun, Gary longs to be a part of something, anything. Plemons brings the right blend of mania and melancholy to the part.
Directors John Francis Daley and Jonathan Goldstein, who have both cut their teeth as comedy writers, show the right blend of grounded and ridiculous to keep the action moving, and the dialogue is well-seeded with great toss-off jokes.
The banter is fast, the coincidences implausible, and the humor frequently unnecessarily coarse or morbid. But none of that really matters. In the era of The Hangover and Seth Rogen-Judd Apatow comedies, the goal is admirably simple: create a diverting, entertaining, somewhat risqué few hours in the cinema. The sights are set fairly low, but Game Night manages to achieve and even surpass them.