Tuesday, March 6, 2018

Movie Review: "Game Night" (2018)

Director: John Francis Daley & Jonathan Goldstein
Year: 2018
Rating: R
Running Time: 1 hour, 40 minutes

Max, Annie, and their friends go to Max's brother's house for their weekly game night. Once there, they get pulled into a real kidnapping and face dangerous criminals when what they thought was a mystery game turns out to be real.

2017 was an abhorrent year for mainstream R-rated comedies. This time last year, we were forced to endure the awful "Fist Fight," followed a short time later by the downright terrible "CHiPS." It is now a new year, and "Game Night" is the first major R-rated studio comedy of 2018. Will it start the year off right, or be a stumbling beginning for yet another year of mediocrity? "Game Night" is directed John Francis Daley and Jonathan Goldstein, who directed the detestable "Vacation" remake from 2015. This project is written by Mark Perez, who wrote "The Country Bears" and "Herby Fully Loaded." Okay, so we're not off to a great start. Luckily, it stars Jason Bateman and Rachel McAdams as Max and Annie, a married couple who love games and are very competitive. Each week, they host a game night at their house with a group of their friends, and Max and Annie are regularly the winners. All that changes when Max's older, wealthier, more successful brother Brooks (Kyle Chandler) strolls into town. Whenever the two of them are together, Brooks does what he can to undermine Max, giving him a hard time whenever possible while simultaneously charming everyone else in the room. Brooks decides he wants to host a game night and has a very special plan in store. He has hired an acting company that builds crime mysteries meant to be solved by the group, but when it turns out real kidnappers show up instead of the hired actors, everyone gets pulled into a dangerous game that could mean life or death. Also in the film are Jesse Plemons, Lamorne Morris, Kylie Bunbury, Billy Magnussen, and Sharon Horgan.

Comedies that feature ordinary people who get placed in extreme situations that they initially thought were fake are par for the course in the genre. We have seen this scenario play out time and again in films like "Three Amigos!," "Galaxy Quest," and "Tropic Thunder." Of course, these three movies are centered around actors who thought they were merely giving performances. They don't feature average people thinking that what they are doing is all just a game. No matter, because we can now happily add "Game Night" to our list of favorites. This film is anchored by a couple of hilarious central performances from Jason Bateman and Rachel McAdams. They may play to type a bit, but honestly, it works for this movie. The supporting cast is also brilliant, and their characters are able to garner a ton of laughs. Billy Magnussen gets to be the handsome moron and shares a great rapport with Sharon Horgan, who is the smart Ying to his not-so-bright Yang. We have not always enjoyed Magnussen in his other projects, but this role is perfect for him. We're also glad to see Horgan popping up in an American comedy because she is hysterical in the Amazon original "Catastrophe" and we've loved her for a long time. Lamorne Morris's Kevin and Kylie Bunbury's Michelle also have some amusing moments together as the couple who has been together since middle school. During the course of the evening, it is discovered that one of them has been hiding a big secret, making the other person obsessed with uncovering the truth. This situation lends itself to a good comedy side-plot and a hilarious after credit scene. As good as all of these actors are in their respective parts, the person who steals the show is Jesse Plemons as Max and Annie's weird police officer neighbor Gary.  Gary has been shunned from game night ever since his wife left him. Plemons is absolutely brilliant in his delivery and his demeanor. His character had us cracking up constantly and Plemons really elevates this comedy as a whole. Beyond the humor, the story is really fun as well. It goes places we didn't necessarily expect and doesn't play to the obvious nature of such a story.

We had a great time watching "Game Night." We can't wait to add this to our Blu-ray collection when it comes out to own. This movie starts the year off right for R-rated comedies. It's totally worth checking it out in the theater and it's definitely worth the price of admission!

My Rating: 8/10
BigJ's Rating: 8/10
IMDB's Rating: ~7.5/10
Do we recommend this movie: Yes!

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