If I were to tell you that the new film, Game Night, was brought to you by the same people who remade the latest Vacation film, most people anyway, would say, “I’ll pass, but thanks”. As it sits, I would probably say the same thing, too. I was not impressed with their realization of the Chevy Chase classic, the most glaring reason is just how dumb they made Ed Helms’ character as Clark Griswold. Chevy Chase’s Clark Griswold was a klutz but he was not stupid. Then again, these are the same guys who brought us Horrible Bosses which I thoroughly enjoyed. Regardless, John Francis Daley and Jonathan Goldstein have had hit and miss careers. Their latest film, Game Night, however is a hit. It is a very clever, darkly comedic and wild film from start to finish.
The film starts with Alex (Jason Bateman) and Annie (Rachel McAdams) meeting in college on opposite teams on game night. Regardless, of the game they love to compete. Flash forward to several years later, they are married, deeply in love with each other (that usually helps when you are married) and still living for game night with the other couples. The odd man out is their creepy neighbor, Gary, whose wife has left him. He is a police officer who carries around his terrier, Bastien, like it was his newborn baby. He wants to be included in game night but gives everyone the heebie-jeebies .
One the occasion for game night, the couples meet at a home of Alex’s brother, Brooks (Kyle Chandler). Brooks is a bit of a lout and Alex has always had to live in his shadow which may or may not have affected his sperm count as the first scene indicates when Alex and Annie visit the fertility clinic. At the sprawling home of Brooks, he proceeds to tell them that this night, game night, will be different. Someone will be taken, kidnapped and you will have to put together the clues to find the missing person. The winner gets the keys to Brooks’ nice Corvette. But what is actually real and what is part of the game? Is it all fake or has Brooks gotten himself in real trouble?
Game Night has been well thought out. It seems to know just how far to push this material and still be funny. It also seems to know when to pull it back and let the characters drive the story with their behavior. It also helps to have a very funny script provided by Mark Perez whose career has gone from writing The Country Bears to Herbie Fully Loaded. He has only written the scripts for seven films total but with Game Night he has hit his stride. The dialogue is fresh and they have some great actors delivering some very funny lines.
There are some subplots that are a bit unnecessary as each couple seems to pick the most inopportune time to question their status as a couple. Some of it is still funny, but some seems forced and it drags the film down a bit. But the actors are really solid in Game Night so not to worry. Jason Bateman is the Jason Bateman we all know and love; sarcastic and a dry wit. Rachel McAdams almost steals the show. She is funny, sexy, a bit ditsy but not stupid. She is a glass half full kind of gal and loves life. Jess Plemons is a hoot as Gary and Kyle Chandler is always a joy to see on screen. He has tons of charisma and makes for a lovable lunk.
The supporting cast is also given a lot of fun things to do and say. They are not simply relegated to standing around with nothing to do. Sharon Horgan and Billy Magnussen are enjoyable as Sarah and Ryan. Sarah is smart but not looking for anyone as a serious relationship whereas, Ryan is not interested in anyone except to distract his game night opponents with his date. Get them off their game, so to speak. Lamorne Morris and Kylie Bunbury are also pleasant as Kevin and Michelle who are high school sweethearts but when a question arises from one of their possible infidelities they spend the rest of the evening trying to solve that mystery, as well, with some funny results.
Game Night also has been directed with a lot of energy and gusto by Daley and Goldstein who are constantly putting up obstacles for the cast to endure. There is some real confidence of conviction behind their direction for this film and Cliff Martinez has composed one of his best scores which seems right at home in Game Night. He is simply one of the best electronic film score composers in Hollywood. His scores are distinctive, yet containing different textures and instruments which makes his music perfect for repeated listening. It fits perfectly with the tone and mood of Game Night.
Game Night is not a perfect film, but I laughed quite a bit in this film. It was different in a good way. It never seems to take itself too seriously but knows what it wants to do. I cared about these characters and loved their personalities. Are these people I would want to spend an evening playing games? Yes. One more note, when the credits role there are two post credit scenes. One during the end credits and another one after all of the end credits have rolled. So stay in your seat.
Game Night – **** out of 5
Game Night – Rated R for language, violence and sexual situations
Game Night – Run time is 100 minutes
Game Night is now playing in theaters. Check your local listings for times and locations nearest you.