a critiQal film review Game Night (2018)

Plot: Max (Bateman) and Annie's (McAdams) weekly couples game night gets kicked up a notch when Max’s charismatic brother, Brooks (Chandler), 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 begin to discover that neither this game - nor Brooks - are what they seem to be.

550 words (Est. Reading Time 2m 45s)

After watching thrillers, horror flicks and action shoot-em-ups, it seemed like it was time to venture back into that genre that Hollywood messes up more than most: comedy. After watching all sorts of bad comedies (most of Will Ferrell’s movies, for example), I tend to shy away from new comedies out of Hollywood. Usually, they go low brow, and aim for the gross-out or the immature humor to gain laughs…and unfortunately, most of that just isn’t funny for anyone over, say, the age of 10. Hopefully, Game Night was going to be different.

Every once in a while, a movie can surprise you. Last time it was a Hollywood comedy, I think it was THE HANGOVER. But, would Game Night be that rare Hollywood comedy that was actually funny? Or would I be longing to revisit The Hangover (2009) (the film and/or the headache) before this film even finished?

Jason Bateman, usually funny in comedies, doesn’t disappoint in Game Night. While he has tried to venture outside his comfort zone (The Kingdom (2007)), comedies are where he does his best work. Thankfully, he’s got a good partner along for the ride this time out as well, as Rachel McAdams surprises by being downright hilarious when she and Bateman team up together. It’s a match made in comedy heaven, and one viewers won’t be able to get enough of.

The rest of the cast is decent in Game Night. Kyle Chandler is solid as Bateman’s older brother, and lesser known actors like Jesse Plemons, Billy Magnussen and Kylie Bunbury give decent showings as well. It’s also kind of nice to see famous bit players, like Michael C. Hall and Danny Huston, although neither of them really get to have any comedic fun in the film.

But this film manages to do such a good job by giving viewers a storyline they can enjoy. With those “fake” murder mystery games being all the rage, introducing one into a film seems like a smart idea. Change it up by adding in a real-life kidnapping into the mix, and suddenly the possibilities are endless for loads of comedic moments when the other “players” don’t realize it’s not a game. Think Bill Murray’s The Man Who Knew Too Little (1997) expanded to a group of friends (some of them at least a bit intelligent), and the viewer has the basic gist of Game Night.

Honestly though, it’s not the plot that makes a comedy. It’s the cast and the dialogue. Without the right cast and the right dialogue, a comedic storyline does not a funny movie make. Think back to The Hangover (2009). Sure, it was a funny plot. But the way that cast brought it together – well, that’s why it was so hilarious.

The same is true for Game Night. With the on-point pairing of Jason Bateman and Rachel McAdams leading the way, this film aims high for comedy. Smart, dark humor rather than gross-out or immature, this is an adult comedy from Hollywood that actually gets a lot right.

Of course, since the film leaves a bit of sequel bait right before the credits roll, there’s a good chance that Hollywood will rush – and bungle – the sequel. But, with Bateman and McAdams at the forefront, who knows? Maybe the sequel will manage to grab some laughs too.

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