One of those rare studio comedies that actually works: 'Game Night' review

Game Night

Anyone want to come over to my place and play some Scrabble?

Game Night, a new comedy starring Jason Bateman and Rachel McAdams, comes from directors John Francis Daley and Jonathan Goldstein.

Daley and Goldstein don’t have the strongest track-record in making comedies up until this point. They served as writers for The Incredible Burt Wonderstone and Horrible Bosses 2 (to be fair, they also wrote the first Horrible Bosses, which wasn’t bad. The second one, however, was abysmal), and the only other film they’ve directed is the 2015 Vacation reboot — which most people agree was downright terrible (I won’t lie, I laughed more than most at Vacation, but by no means is it a good movie).

However, Hollywood loves an underdog story, and Daley and Goldstein might just be the two newest names to achieve just that. Last year they were writers on Spider-Man: Homecoming and they’ve now been tapped to direct DC’s upcoming Flashpoint.

All this just to say that Game Night is a far better and, more importantly, far funnier movie than you might have initially expected.

Game Night
credit: YouTube

Max (Bateman) and Annie (McAdams) met while going toe-to-toe in a trivia competition. It didn’t take long for them to notice each other, given they were both the smartest and most competitive people in the room. That connection leads to a relationship, which then leads into marriage, all of which was defined by rivalries, tournaments and games. Lots and lots of games.

Which is why the two of them host a weekly game night at their house. It’s all pretty standard routine: they invite the same other two couples — Kevin (Lamorne Morris of New Girl) and his wife Michelle (Kylie Bunbury), Ryan (Billy Magnussen) and whatever girl he’s trying to sleep with this week, this time being an older Irish woman named Sarah (Sharon Horgan).

This week’s game night, however, is different. Max’s brother Brooks (Kyle Chandler) is in town and, in a bit of sibling rivalry between the two, Brooks promises this will be the most exciting game night that any of them have ever been to.

He isn’t kidding. Brooks has hired a murder mystery game for the evening — one of those events where a bunch of actors come into your house and stage a crime scene, then leaving the players to solve it.

Sound like fun and all, right? Only problem is this “murder mystery” isn’t actually a game. Brooks has gotten involved with some dangerous people who have decided to use the game night as a cover for their own illegal activities. Soon the game night crew realizes that these guns aren’t actually fake and the bullets whizzing by them could potentially kill them, dragging them all into a much deeper conspiracy than they ever would have realized.

credit: YouTube

Reading the initial premise of Game Night, and even seeing the trailers for the film, brings back bad memories of something like The House or one of The Hangover sequels. Turns out, Game Night has much more up its sleeve — this is much more in the same vein as films like Tropic Thunder or The Other Guys than any of the previously mentioned films.

One of the reasons this movie works is because of a good script, written by Mark Perez (the very same Mark Perez who once wrote The Country Bears and Herbie Fully Loaded, believe it or not). Perez wisely understands that comedies can’t solely rely on famous actors delivering improv jokes, with no storyline to support them (i.e. The House). Instead, he develops a real storyline and real jokes that the actors can deliver, all of which are done so in an entertaining manner.

While the movie walks a very thin line of believability — there are certain times when the movie can step into territory that’s a bit too over-the-top, such as a certain moment involving an egg (despite it having an incredible one-shot) as well as some of the lines delivered by Billy Magnussen. Yet, Game Night never becomes Identity Their or Office Christmas Party, where there’s no storyline until the third act when some subplot about drug dealers is clumsily woven in. This movie picks a tone and, for the most part, sticks with it.

credit: YouTube

Most importantly of all is that Game Night is funny. In fact, it’s not just funny — there are moments when this movie is downright hilarious. The chemistry between the characters is all there — Bateman and McAdams play a believable couple who are able to play off each other and are clearly having a ton of fun making this movie, Morris and Bunbury have some drama of their own that provides laughs. The ridiculous balance of Magnussen’s stupidity along with Horgan’s personality actually wound up working for the better.

All these characters are given moments to shine as well — no one is under or overused, everyone has a place and reason to be in this story.

Yet, none of them can actually hold a candle to Jesse Plemons, who winds up nearly stealing every scene he’s in. Plemons essentially plays a version of Todd (aka Meth Damon) from Breaking Bad, only this time, instead of cooking meth, he’s just trying to get invited to the next Game Night. He plays the role in a super serious manner, similar to what Michael Shannon did in The Night Before, creating this awkward yet brilliant presence every time he re-appears.

Game Night
credit: YouTube

With pop-culture references galore, Game Night is a movie that’s far better than anyone would have ever guessed it would be. Seriously, was anyone out there even looking forward to this thing? Did you ever think we’d be calling it a must-see? Well, suddenly that’s where we as, as Game Night is one of the better American studio comedies to come out in the past few years (the only other one that immediately jumps to mind is Girls Trip, otherwise it’s been pretty barren in this genre as of late).

Watch the trailer for Game Night here and let us know, in the comments below, what did you think of the movie? Was it better than you thought it would be? What scene made you laugh the hardest?

One of those rare studio comedies that actually works: 'Game Night' review
  • One of those rare studio comedies that actually works: 'Game Night' review
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Brandon Schreur

The fella over there with the hella good hair. Movies and TV are my jam, and the fact that I get to write about them on a regular basis is the bees knees.