There seems to have been a trend in recent years for big studio comedies where regular people get thrown into crazy, violent, criminal activities, like Date Night, The House, Horrible Bosses, etc and Game Night continues that trend in 2018, and is also probably one of the better ones in that new genre.
Jason Bateman and Rachel McAdams star as Max and Annie Davis, who meet and fall for each other at a pub trivia contest and continue their perfectly matched competitiveness into marriage and a weekly game night with their friends; high school sweethearts Kevin (Lamorne Morris) and Michelle (Kylie Bunbury) and womanizing doofus Ryan (Billy Magnussen), who arrives with a new, vapid and dumb girl every week. Max and Annie are trying to get pregnant but are having trouble and it seems like there’s lingering confidence issues for Max based around his older brother, Brooks (Kyle Chandler), who lives a globe trotting lifestyle as a venture capitalist and always won games and competitions as a kid. Brooks arrives back in town and invites everyone to a lavish mansion he’s renting for a game night that will feature one of them being kidnapped, with the rest having to track that person down but, unbeknowst to the rest of the group (which includes Sharon Horgan as Ryan’s “ringer” new date), Brooks is actually kidnapped by some dangerous people. The movie does a great job of juxtaposing the actual danger with the group’s unawareness of that danger, like Brooks getting into a massive fight through the mansion while the rest of the group eats cheese and crackers and comments on the realism or when Max and Annie hold the actual kidnappers hostage, believing them to be hired actors, and subject them to yoga poses and Third Eye Blind. There’s still lots of good stuff when the group realizes the actual danger as well, like Annie having to perform improvised bullet wound surgery on an accidentally shot Max. Game Night throws a few twists and turns into the mix before the finale and there’s some solid fakeouts and reveals about what is actually going on.
The cast of Game Night is all pretty great. Jason Bateman and Rachel McAdams perfectly match with their constant trying to top one another and relating everything in their situation to pop culture because of their trivia/nerdy personalities, including an extended metaphor about Pac-Man. Lamorne Morris and Kylie Bunbury also have great chemistry and energy together and they have a fun running joke about Michelle having slept with a celebrity in the brief time they were not together but refusing to say who. The person that basically steals the movie though is Billy Magnussen, who is such a lovable moron as Ryan. He’s constantly stating the obvious or trying to be smart and it works great in contrast to the always sharp as a tack Sharon Horgan, who gets to do lots of eye rolling and sarcastic takedowns. Kyle Chandler is also tons of fun in full on sleazy douche mode as Brooks and his Friday Night Lights co-star Jesse Plemmons is also on board as Gary, Max and Annie’s creepy, recently divorced, cop neighbor who is obsessed with both his ex-wife and getting back into game night. There’s also some fun cameos from the likes of Michael C. Hall, Jeffrey Wright and Chelsea Peretti.
David Fincher’s “The Game” is obviously the main inspiration for Game Night, with it’s “what’s real, what’s not” structure and the general premise and Game Night actually feels like a Fincher movie filtered through a comedic lens. The movie looks great, with lighting and cinematography that captures the look of a thriller which contrasts the ridiculous things happening and there’s some really great looking tilt shift scene transitions that make the houses and locations look like a board game. Everything is also propelled by a driving Cliff Martinez synth score.
Game Night is a ton of fun with a great cast that has tons of chemistry and a twisty plot that will actually keep you guessing and engaged. In the growing “suburban couples get in over their heads” genre, Game Night is definitely near the top.