Film Review: Game Night

Written by Tracy Fuller

Game Night is a film about competitive game-loving partiers who end up taking their game night to the extreme. It is unquestionably a piercingly hilarious film that takes things to the edge. Directed by John Francis Daley, Jonathan Goldstein, and written by Mark Perez.

The main characters, Max and Annie (Jason Bateman and Rachel McAdams), regularly host a traditional game night at their suburban home. A wittily-edited opening montage shows that games like Pictionary, Scrabble, and charades are the framework of their relationship and drove to their marriage. The other gamers in this movie includes Ryan (Billy Magnussen), a dimwitted friend of Annie’s; Sarah (Sharon Horgan), Ryan’s much brighter date; the husband-wife duo of Kevin and Michelle (Lamorne Morris and Kylie Bunbury); and Max’s estranged brother Brooks (Kyle Chandler), who’s a excels in ways that Max can only fantasize about.

Not only does Brooks project an image of success, but he is always one to out-do his brother, Max. So naturally, he takes over game night by inviting the gang to his mansion for an extreme version of game night. A version modeled by what is becoming more common these days, a murder mystery themed party. Things begin to take things for a roller coaster, taking the audience on consequential flips and turns, leading into straight chaos.

Brooks gets kidnapped in a home attack that everybody else thinks is just part of the game and threatened with murder if the rest do not surrender a cherished Faberge egg to a scary-voiced mastermind who’s giving them commands from afar. The rest of the crew splits up into teams and tries to unravel the mystery in their way, their paths occasionally re-crossing, only to deviate again.

The screenwriter and directors tie the storyline to the psychology of the characters and structure the film as a quest for personal as well as sequential discovery. The brothers’ mutual resentment and rivalry are relevant here, as it develops the plot. Max and Annie’s failure to superfetate a child comes into play, as do the psychologies and pasts of other game night members. A subplot about Kevin’s infatuation with solving whether Michelle was ever unfaithful to him has an immense payoff.

Game Night is a nearly perfect entertainment for adults over a certain age. There’s a daring car chase, a brutal incident that leads to improvised surgery, and a house party with echoes of the masked scene in “Eyes Wide Shut,” but it is all entwined with annotation about aging, failure, doomed romanticism and sibling rivalry. The characters put it all over with flair—especially Bateman and McAdams, who complement each other’s ideas so deftly that they do seem as if they have been married forever, and Plemons, who steals every scene he is in through deft underplaying. Also, while there are a few touching times, the film never tries to set an overly emotional tone.

Even though the movie was a bit predictable at times, it was very entertaining. This movie is the perfect film for a date night or also if you are just looking to laugh. I will probably see it again when it opens up to the public.